Although the origin of the phrase is unknown – it can be dated to at least very early in the 20th Century – and the exact superstition varies boldly pronouncing ‘white rabbits’ first thing on the first day of each month is believed to ensure good luck. All Fools Day dates to at least the 1500s (although some attribute it to Geoffrey Chaucer more than a hundred years earlier) and the playing of pranks on this day has been popular since the 19th Century. Today being the 1st April 2018 the ‘white rabbit’ proclamations and face-to-face, online and media ‘jokes’ compete with wishes for a ‘Happy Easter’. Easter is associated not just (or even) with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but also, by many, with hot-cross buns, chocolate eggs delivered by bunnies, egg hunting and rolling (followed by a meal of roasted meat with potatoes and veg). And yet, these well-known Christian activities are, if one cares to look, also variously attributed to Ostera or Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, or to honouring of the resurrection of Tammuz, the god of an ancient Babylonian family 2,000 before Christ.
The coalition of April Fool’s Day and Easter Sunday this year is likely felt by some as the ultimate cruel joke. For those brought up as Christian, even for non-believers, Christmas is another such event. In other faiths there are similar days and periods of festival and reflection which like Christianity highlight (amongst other things) the importance of community, friendship and family. For all of us the birth and death dates of those we have loved and lost (through death, estrangement or circumstance) alongside other formal and private anniversaries are also significant. On all of these days the bereaved and those whose who have family members and friends that are far away or irrecoverable to them for whatever reasons often feel grief, aloneness, despair even, more acutely. I am not suggesting that such feelings are not prevalent and intrusive every day of the year. But just as single people might wish to avoid dimly-lit restaurants on Valentine’s Day evening and those without children and/or parents might reflect on what was or what might have been on Mothering Sunday or Father’s Day there are some, likely many, with much cause for sadness on other high days and holidays.
For myself, as widowed, childless, orphan with no siblings and little other family, all of the celebrations I have mentioned give me pause for thought. I have people – loving, beautiful, wonderful people – who care for me and let me care for them. And yet I still sometimes, often, find days such as these difficult. My emotions are mixed though for at one level I want to retreat, retire, baton down my personal hatches whilst simultaneously being grateful for, and wanting to join in, the celebrations to which I know very strongly that I am welcome. Others, I know, do not have this dilemma and my emotional flip-flopping leads to a little self-disgust. Not least because, given the differential origins and variations noted above, I am aware of the social constructed nature of such days as these.
As ever writing helps. I recommend it to all.
And to enter into the spirit of things, if a little late in the day; white rabbits.