When I was in elementary school, the quirky headmaster — Mr. Williamson — would always greet the students a warm and enthusiastic “Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit!” before classes started on the first of every month. He explained that this recitation would grant us good luck for the whole month. A decade out of elementary school, I still continue this tradition every first of the month. I even got my parents to partake in the ritual. Somehow my dad turned it into a competition and thought that you only got the good luck if you were the first one to greet another with these words.
I always participated in this ritual but didn’t know the origin. So I did some research in order to find out. I thought that it was something my elementary school principal had made up. But! When I was in Australia last year, I must have said “Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit” on the first of the month, or I was randomly talking about it, when this boy from Los Angeles, California said he knew of the saying and participated in the superstition as well. I was so surprised and excited to find a fellow Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit-er who did not attend my elementary school — I only had to travel across the world to do so. I began to think that these words held meaning in places other than my elementary school.
An NPR online article interviewing Martha Barnette, host of the public radio show A Way with Words, discusses the superstition’s beginnings. I also found additional information on Wikipedia.
The written documentation of this saying began in the 1900s, but good ol’ Wikipedia states that the tradition originated between the 13th to 15th century England. For some reason, the rabbit was chosen as the animal associated with luck. The beginning of this relationship is unknown but perhaps it is because the animal is connected to “jumping into the future and moving ahead with life and happiness”.
Barnette talks about saying “Rabbit, Rabbit” while some say rabbit only once. I say it three times but all for the same reason — to bring good luck for the rest of the month. Luck only comes with rabbits so you will definitely not receive good luck if you chant “Gopher, Gopher” on the first of the month. In the UK, they typically say “White Rabbit.” If you forget to say it first thing in the morning, you can say “Black Rabbit” at the end of the day before you go to sleep in order to salvage your luck for the month. Alternatively, you can say “Tibbar, Tibbar,” which is rabbit spelled backwards.
Apparently, saying rabbit any number of times is only lucky if it is the first thing that escapes your mouth upon awakening on the first day of the month. My parents and I have been using it to greeting when we see/talk to each other that day; it is definitely not the first words we whisper in the morning — maybe that’s why I haven’t had any good luck lately. Totally kidding. Saying “Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit” is definitely the reason for all my good luck ever.
This is a just a nice a simple ritual that keeps the spirits up when looking at the month ahead. If you didn’t say “Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit” (or any variation) today, it’s not too late! Perhaps you’ll continue this tradition on your own for future months.