Why do we say 'white rabbits' on first of the month?

Credit: S. Klewitz-Seemann/DPA/Press Association Images

We all know the well-known sayings 'pinch punch first day of the month' and 'white rabbits, white rabbits'. They are said to bring people luck if you say them on the first day of the month before midday, but where did they come from?

The theories:

  • It originates from Medieval times when people believed in witches. Salt was believed to make witches weak, so the pinch part of the saying is the pinching of the salt and the punch part was to banish the witch once she was weakened by the salt.

  • According to some, president George Washington met local Indian tribes on the first day of each month and at the meeting he would supply fruit punch with an added pinch of salt. This tradition became known as 'pinch and punch on the first of the month'.

  • 'White rabbits, white rabbits' was written in the 'Notes and Queries' book from 1909. It 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."

  • Apparently it was a common belief among RAF bomber aircrew during WW2 that saying "white rabbits" the very first thing upon waking would protect oneself.

  • According to playground rules, your pinch and punch has to be followed immediately with the words, "White rabbits, no return". By saying so, it means you can't be pinched back.

  • In the West Country, the retaliation is 'A flick and a kick for being so quick'.

All these are, of course, theories.