And I actually remembered this morning.
Origins and history
The exact origin of the superstition is certainly unknown, though it has appeared in print at least as early as 1420 in England, where it is most commonly said to have originated, though some reports place its origins even earlier, into the 1200s. 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. The 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:
The inverse: instead of believing that saying it will bring good luck, believing that not saying it will bring bad luck.
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.
Gilda Radner is reported to have said “bunny bunny” upon waking on the first day of every month. Alan Zweibel used her 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 varitation 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.
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.
Cavendish, Richard – Man, Myth, & Magic Volume 9. BPC Publishing, 1970
Cavendish, Richard – Man, Myth, & Magic Volume 17. BPC Publishing, 1970
Knapp, Mary – One Potato, Two Potato: The Folklore of American Children W. W. Norton & Company, 1978 (ISBN 0-393-09039-6)