In many places there are certain fun little traditions that people observe in regards to the first day of the month – some of these are individualised in some places, but in others they are observed all together.
“A pinch and a punch for the first day of the month” – accompanied by said actions, then followed up with, “White rabbits, no return!”
I researched this a little bit back at the end of March, but honestly I couldn’t find a lot. There is, seemingly, no agreed upon origin. Plenty of theories, but no definite origin. What I could find though was fun to look at.
A Pinch and a Punch!
This has several proposed origins. Though for the most part the entire thing is widely agreed to have probably originated in the UK, still this one does have a theory attributing it to the US. Accordingly, George Washington would meet with Native tribes on the first of the month and share out some punch, with a pinch of salt. And so, at the start of the month, it is a pinch and a punch.
I prefer the other theory though, because it tickles my stereotype fancy. This one comes from Old England, when people, “believed in witches”. Now of course no one likes witches and they must be got rid of before they can do you harm, and there is indeed a lovely and simple formula for doing so. A pinch of salt would weaken a witch, and a punch would then banish her.
George Washington is all well and good, but how can I not appreciate the idea that this fun little tradition stems from people wanting to banish, well, me? Fantastic!
Once again, no agreed upon origin, but it is believed to come from another tradition that requires one to chant “Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits” or some variation therein, upon waking on the first of the month. Seemingly this was for ensuring good luck for the entire month, or to grant you wishes or, in some cases, guarantee you get a gift during the month.
White rabbits has changed meaning over time, and may mean something different depending on where you live. In some places it still has to do with good luck, say it upon waking or before a specific time of the morning and ensure good luck (or a gift). In other families and places though it seems to be a competition of some sort – when you first see a person on the first of the month, whoever says it first will have good luck, the other doesn’t seem to get bad luck from what I can tell, but perhaps they just have normal luck.
Rabbits for the most part do have some history for being seen as lucky – though more lucky for us than for them, given their loss of feet for our good fortune. But how does one get from “Rabbits” generic, to the more specific “White rabbits”?
Of course we all know white is the best colour. It is the colour of goodness and purity and light and the divine. Or something. So if a generic rabbit is lucky, then how lucky must a snowy white bunny be? Gods sent I suppose.
For myself and many others white rabbits has nothing to do with luck, but with immunity. Say it to someone and they can no longer attempt to banish you with the pinching and the punching. If you pinch and punch someone, you are best to follow to it up with “white rabbits, no returns” to ensure immunity from anyone else listening in, and to make sure your victim cannot follow it up by giving the, “Hit and a kick for being so quick!” This little return bit has several variations as well, and even has much longer variations, including pokes in the eye and tacks in the back! But I don’t know, as a witch being banished, wouldn’t toading be more appropriate?
A swish of the wand, a flick of the broom, now you’re a toad and make all the girls swoon. I like that one better.
Of course it should be noted that rabbits have not always been seen as good luck – there is lore that speaks of them being just the opposite. But I suppose that lore was not much in circulation when “Rabbits Rabbits Rabbits” first began.
The conclusion here is simple. No one knows the actual origins of this fun little tradition, but what does it matter when there are such fun theories?
Go pinch and punch someone, gently, and wax eloquent about white bunnies. Or, if you’re less inclined to violence – throw a pinch of salt at them and air punch them, again waxing eloquent about white bunnies. Or, simply pat a bunny rabbit. It can’t hurt (unless you get pinched and punched anyway), and you may just get some good luck.