Like the first of any other month, I woke up on December 1 with a full inbox. Text messages from family members and friends from around the country — and even beyond — began flowing in as soon as the clock struck midnight.
I was pissed.
Chills raced down my spine, and not from the painful December winds seeping through my cracked window. In a terrible instant of blinding clarity, I realized I had committed a potentially month-ruining error. Draped in frustrations and defeat, I replied to every message with the same two words: “You win.”
For, as I remembered at that moment, today was the first day of the month, and the first two words out of my mouth (or, in this case, the first words projected from my keyboard) should have been, and had always been, completely different.
The words “Rabbit Rabbit” taunted me as I scrolled through the influx of messages in my inbox, signifying that this time, and only this time, my comrades would prove triumphant.
The “Rabbit Rabbit” superstition, also known as “rabbit,” “rabbits” or “white rabbits,” traces as far back as 1909, when the author of a British periodical called Notes And Queries indicates that his daughters always say, “Rabbits!” on the first day of a new month for luck. Franklin D. Roosevelt carried around a rabbit’s foot as a good luck charm, while British fighter pilots were known to say “white rabbits” every single day.
Since as far back as I can remember, I have said “Rabbit Rabbit” as soon as I’ve woken up on the first of every month. My mom introduced the tradition to my two older brothers and I when we were children, explaining that if we were the first to do it, we would receive good fortune for the rest of the month.
But the superstitious tradition extends far beyond the breadth of our immediate family. Over the years, my brothers and I have familiarized countless friends, classmates, coworkers, teammates and significant others with the “Rabbit Rabbit” phenomenon and its magical fortune-bearing ways.
As I was growing up, my best friend and I used to sit at the kitchen table in utter silence on the last night of every month. With unblinking eyes fixed on the clock over the stove — as if stalkers waiting for their prey to make its first move — we’d wait for the illuminated digits to switch from 11:59 p.m. to 12 a.m.
And each time it did, chaos ensued without fail.
The infamous two words escaped our mouths in an instantly deafening way, as we fought and laughed about who said it a millisecond sooner. We were hungry to capitalize on good fortune for the new month, but even beyond that, we found immense joy in celebrating a special tradition together.
Now at two different universities with thousands of miles between us, sitting at her kitchen table on the eve of every month is obviously no longer a feasible option. But despite the distance, the tradition has never faltered. The same competitive drive to beat the other is as alive as it ever was. And even though it comes through texts, the proclamation — especially when you lose, as I did today — feels just as deafening.
I had no idea that one little phrase would grow into the longstanding, cherished tradition that it is for me today. But it isn’t the phrase that holds sentimental value to me — it’s so much more than that. It’s the idea that one silly tradition has the ability to bring families together, reconnect people and remind them of where they came from.
Traditions can be as simple as reciting the same phrase every month or as inconvenient as flying across the country to your grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving. Whatever they appear to be on the outside, their purpose is always something greater.
So, whether you say it on the first of every month, every day or, in FDR’s case, carry a rabbit’s foot in your pocket, three facts remain: rabbits are associated with good luck, traditions bring people together and I will certainly, without a doubt, be the first to proclaim “Rabbit Rabbit” on January 1. No exceptions.