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“Rabbit rabbit white rabbit” is a common superstition, held particularly among children. The most common modern version states that a person should say “rabbit, rabbit, white rabbit” upon waking on the first day of each new month, and on doing so will receive good luck for the remainder of that month.
The exact origin of the superstition is unknown, though it has appeared in print at least as early as 1920 in England, where it is most commonly said to have originated, though some reports place its origins even earlier, into the 1800s. Today it has spread to most of the English-speaking countries of the world, although like all folklore, determining its exact area of distribution is difficult. This superstition is related to the broader belief in the rabbit or hare being a “lucky” animal, as exhibited in the practice of carrying a rabbit’s foot for luck.
Some have also believed it is representing a jumping into the future and moving ahead with life and happiness.
As with most folklore, which is traditionally spread by word of mouth, there are numerous variant versions of the “rabbit, rabbit” superstition, in some cases specific to a certain time period or region. There are hundreds of variants, some of the most common of which include:
WHITE RABBITS ON THE FIRST OF THE MONTH – “In some parts of Lancashire and the adjacent counties, it is unwise to shoot a black rabbit. This is because they were once believed to be ancestral spirits returning in that form. In Somerset, white rabbits are said to be witches. That anyone really believes this now is improbable; nevertheless, white rabbits are not popular as children’s pets, and they are usually left severely alone, and are not shot. A luck-bringing custom found all over Great Britain is to say ‘Rabbits’ or ‘White Rabbits’ once or three times on the first day of the month. It must be said early in the morning, before any other word has been uttered, otherwise the charm loses its force. In some districts it is considered necessary to say ‘Hares’ or ‘Black Rabbits’ when going to bed on the night before, as well as ‘Rabbits’ or White Rabbits’ in the morning. If, however, the speaker becomes muddled and says ‘Black Rabbits’ on rising, bad luck will follow. The looked-for result of all this is variously given as general good luck during the ensuing four weeks, or the receipt of a gift within a few days.”
It is believed that saying “Rabbit Rabbit” on the first day of the New Year will bring yearlong good luck.
The converse: instead of believing that saying it will bring good luck, believing that not saying it will bring bad luck.
Being the first to say “rabbit rabbit” to a person on the first of the month will bring good luck. Once someone says rabbit rabbit to you, you are no longer allowed to repeat it to anyone, thus having bad luck for the next month.
Instead of saying “rabbit, rabbit”, saying just “rabbit”, or “rabbits”. Some also extend it to three rabbits: “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit,” which has some of the earliest written references.
The earliest referenced usage may be to saying “rabbits” three times before going to sleep the last night of the month, and then “hares” three times first thing upon waking, though just two years later, it was three “rabbits” in the morning with no “hares” at all.
Alan Zweibel used a variation as the title of his book recounting their friendship.
Using the night of the new moon (traditionally the first day of the lunar month) instead of the first night of the month.
Another variation is “bunny bunny hop hop”
Saying “black rabbits” the night before, and “white rabbits” on the morning in question.
Believing that the effect is stronger on one’s month of birth.
Referring to the first day of each month as “Rabbit Day”.
Various ways to counteract forgetting to say it, most commonly saying it backwards (“tibbar, tibbar”)
before falling asleep or saying “Moose Moose” upon waking on the second day of the month.
A different but related practice of saying “Happy White Rabbit’s Day” to someone in order to bring good luck.
Making “rabbit, rabbit” be the last words said on the last of the month and the first words said on the first of the month.
One variation involves an element of competition: Saying “rabbit, rabbit” to another person on the first of the month entitles the speaker to the luck of the listener for the duration of the month.
Traditions also extend to saying on the first of each month: “A pinch and a punch for the first day of the month; white rabbit!” White rabbit is declared to be the “no returns” policy on the “pinch and the punch” the receiver felt. Origins of this saying is unknown. A small concession exists, for recipients of the “pinch and a punch,” where white rabbit declaration (no returns) is not made. Recipients may in this case reply with “A flick and a kick for being so quick.”
Saying “White rabbits, white rabbits, white rabbits”.
A more modern variation is to say “rabbit, rabbit” to someone on the first day of the month, and whoever says it first wins. The idea of luck is not involved.
Saying “white rabbit, white rabbit, white rabbit” as the first words of the month, before getting out of bed — and the speaker must first reverse position, so that speaker’s head is at the foot of the bed & vice versa.
Harold Nicolson, the politician and diplomat, often said “Rabbits” not only on the first of the month, but as a general talisman in his long-running diary, held at Balliol College, Oxford.
Around 1920 the following belief is common in many parts of Great Britain, with local variants: To secure good luck of some kind, usually a present, one should say ‘Rabbits’ three times just before going to sleep on the last day of the month, and then ‘Hares’ three times on waking the next morning.
The band Jawbreaker makes reference to the superstition in their song Jinx Removing.
Another variation brought about by the Polish is the phrase “Bunny, Bunny”
Chick McGee from The Bob and Tom Show says “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit,” on the air, at the beginning of each month for good luck.
In the early 1990s, Nickelodeon had a segment called “Nick days,” which had an event for every day of the year. The first of every month was “Rabbit Rabbit Day.” According to the segment, the phrase “rabbit rabbit” must be the first thing said to the first person you see.
In some areas of the Southern United States, e.g., Tennessee and Mississippi, campers will say “I hate white rabbits” in response to campfire smoke blowing into their face, hoping the smoke will go elsewhere.