Why do we say ‘white rabbits’ and ‘pinch punch’ for the first day of the month?
You’re probably used to people saying ‘white rabbits, white rabbits’ and ‘pinch punch for the first of the month’ when a new month rolls around.
And you’ve probably just guessed it’s another weird British tradition and accepted it as a thing that just happens because you’re British. Like going out on penalty shoot-outs.
All most of us know is that both are meant to bring good luck if said before midday on the first day of a month.
But, where do the superstitious sayings come from?
'Pinch punch' theories According to some, when he was president, George Washington met local Indian tribes on the first day of each month. He would supply fruit punch with an added pinch of salt. It became known as ‘pinch and punch on the first of the month’.
Alternatively, others believe the tradition originated in medieval times, when people believed in witches. Salt was meant to make witches weak, so the pinch signified the use of salt to weaken the witch, while the punch was then administered to banish the witch for good.
Saying ‘pinch punch for the first of the month’ therefore became a way of welcoming in a new month and protecting yourself from bad luck.
And, according to ancient playground rules, your ‘pinch, punch’ must be followed by ‘white rabbits, no return’, which means you can’t be pinched and punched back.
But what’s with all the white rabbits?
'White rabbits, white rabbits' theory A reference to ‘white rabbits, white rabbits’ is found in the ‘Notes and Queries’ book (a British periodical where experts share knowledge on folklore, literature and history) from 1909.
The entry reads: ‘My two daughters are in the habit of saying ‘Rabbits!’ on the first day of each month. The word must be spoken aloud, and be the first word said in the month. It brings luck for that month. Other children, I find, use the same formula.”
It was also a common belief among RAF bomber aircrew during WW2 that saying ‘white rabbits’ when you woke up would protect you from harm.
Finally, if someone just gave you a pinch and a punch this morning (and forgets to follow it up with a white rabbit), don’t just punch them back – the correct protocol, which originated in the West Country, is to respond with: ‘A flick and a kick for being so quick’.