Monday, March 1, 2010
The only month that's a verb—and an imperative, at that. Suggesting a brisker pace and maybe a destination. Are we marching to Pretoria? Or Peoria? Mais non, mon capitaine, nous marchons au printemps! Au vert! We are marching to the woodcocks, the grackles, the red-winged blackbirds, and the song sparrows. But first we have to deal with the rabbits.
At the biennial Almanacker's Convention in Sheboygan, the rabbits always come up.
"So, Hatch, how do you stand on the lagomorph issue?"
Polite smile. "Sorry?"
"Do you favor 'Rabbit, rabbit'? Or 'White rabbit, white rabbit'? Or a combination? Or in threes?"
"Do you believe it should be said first thing in the morning? Last thing the night before? Every first day? Or only on certain months?"
Sincere frown. "Definitely."
Seriously, I had no idea this was such a thorny patch of folklore until I Googled it today. Check out these variations: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit_rabbit
I must have been in Canada when I first heard about saying "Rabbit, rabbit" on the first day of a month before you say anything else, in order to bring good luck for the month. And it's one of those things that sticks because it's sort of charming and connects you to time or the landscape—like making a wish on a white horse. It makes you feel as if you've tended to something obscurely important when you remember to say it (rabbit, rabbit, that is), and when you remember that you forgot, that you sang in the shower or talked back to the radio instead, you feel this tiny "damn." As if it mattered. And who's to say it doesn't?
There's probably reasons why it's rabbits and why for some, like the people of Yorkshire, the day to say "Rabbit, rabbit" or "Rabbit, rabbit, white rabbit" was today, March 1st. Maybe it's to counteract the Ides of March. (Don't get me started on the Ides.) Or maybe it's to innoculate oneself against March madness, as symbolized by the March hare (see above). Or maybe it was a fertility thing. If you subtract nine months from March, you get June, as in weddings and honeymoons. Or am I hopping to conclusions?
And speaking of hops, is it mere coincidence that as March huffs on, the hippity-hop of you know what egg-laying mammal—and I don't mean a duck-billed platypus—is going to get louder? I think not!
Finally, today is St. David's Day, the feast day of the patron saint of Wales, who died on March 1, 589. What connection to hares or bunnies?
Two words: Welsh rabbit.