Saturday, December 01, 2007
Boxing Day & White Rabbits
At about 6:30 this morning, I hit my wife with "white rabbits"—an old English custom that grants you a month's worth of good luck if you are the first to say "white rabbits" on the first day of the month. That's three months running I've beat her to it.
Honestly, I'd never heard of "white rabbits" until I met my wife. She introduced it to me from her youth growing up in the Solomon Islands and New Zealand.
Depending on who you talk to, this silly superstition has been around for a long time—perhaps as far back as the 1400s and there appears to be a number of variations on this first-of-the-month ritual. In our household, we probably conform to the following definition from Wikipedia:
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. A small concession exists, for recipients of the "pinch and a punch," where white rabbit declaration (no returns) is not made. Recipients may in this case reply with "A flick and a kick for being so quick."
Later on I was musing about how there aren't many customs or celebrations that we (Americans) observe with a dominant English tradition behind them, and I'm not counting St. Patrick's Day either. If anything, our celebrations seem to be slanted toward ridding ourselves of our British connections even though English is the dominant (dare I say "national") language here in the U.S. We're so reluctant to have anything to do with the English that we don't even acknowledge something as wonderful as Boxing Day—typically December 26 (a holiday that would give us two days off work, maybe three if one doesn't have to work Christmas Eve). For those unfamiliar, Boxing Day is an English public holiday celebrated on the first weekday after Christmas Day. It appeared sometime in the 19th Century from a custom of giving tradespeople a Christmas box on this day.
Of course, we have our own dictionary of "American" English and our version of rugby has transformed into gridiron football while we devised a game called baseball from cricket.
Most of the other countries around the globe that were once tied to England
still remain somewhat "connected" as they recognize the Oxford Dictionary, Boxing Day and a few other selected English establishments. But here in America we have been so bent on being independent, unique, and doing things "our way" for all these years it's understandable how those outside of the United States see us as isolationist and arrogant—to name a few.
Perhaps we would do well in the global community if we were to adopt Boxing Day (and its original intentions) as an official holiday. Harmless as it seems, it could be just the PR stunt the doctor ordered to give our image a much needed boost throughout the world starting with the assortment of English-based nations.