Since at least 1909, a superstition has lived in North American and the United Kingdom that if a person says or repeats the word “rabbit” upon waking up on the first day of the month, good luck will follow for the remainder of that month.
Elements of the tradition exist in the United Kingdom, New England, and even in various First Nation cultures.
While I’m not necessarily endorsing the superstition, it provides a way to look in depth at each month of the year, from history and observances to miscellaneous trivia. The topic this month is January.
January is named after Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions in Roman mythology. Ancient Roman farmers’ almanacs also suggest that Juno, the goddess of marriage and childbirth, was the tutelary deity of the month.
The original Roman calendar traditionally consisted of 10 months totaling 304 days, with winter being considered a period without months. Circa 713 BC, the semi-mythical successor of Romulus, King Numa Pompilius, supposedly added the months of January and February, bringing the calendar to 354 days, the length of a standard lunar year.
March was originally the first month in the old Roman calendar. January became the first month of the calendar year either under Numa or the Decemvirs in about 450 BC.
Various Christian feast dates were used for the New Year in Europe during the Middle Ages, including the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25) and December 25. Medieval calendars kept the Roman tradition of displaying twelve columns from January to December, but beginning in the 16th century, European countries began officially making January 1 the start of the New Year once again. This is sometimes referred to as Circumcision Style because this was the date of the Feast of the Circumcision, being the seventh day after December 25, the supposed birthday of Jesus Christ.
Canada observes Alzheimer’s Awareness Month throughout January. The United Kingdom considers the month as Dry January, based on a public health campaign urging people to abstain from alcohol.
The United States packs January with several observances: National Codependency Awareness Month, National Mentoring Month, National Healthy Weight Awareness Month, Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and Stalking Awareness Month.
The United States also has several food related observances, including Be Kind to Food Servers Month (in the state of Tennessee), California Dried Plum Digestive Health Month, Hot Tea Month, National Soup Month, and Oatmeal Month.
Ancient Roman observances during this month include Cervula and Juvenalia (celebrated on January 1st), one of three Agonalia (celebrated on January 9th), and Carmentalia (celebrated on January 11th). These dates were according to ancient calendars and do not correspond to the modern Gregorian calendar.
- Historical names for January include its original Roman designation, Ianuarius,
- The Saxons referred to January as Wulf-monath (meaning “wolf month”) because people were supposedly in more danger of being devoured by wolves in that month.
- The full moon occurring in January is known as the Wolf Moon.
- Charlemagne referred to the month as Wintarmanoth, meaning “winter month” or “cold month”.
- In Slovenian, the month is traditionally called prosinec. That name is associated with millet bread and the act of asking for something, and was first documented as such in 1466 in a manuscript from Škofja Loka.
- In Finnish, the month is known as tammikuu, meaning the heart of the winter. The name literally means “oak moon”.
- January’s birthstone is the garnet. It represents constancy, is the birthstone associated with Aquarius (spanning January to February) in astrology, and naturally comes in multiple colors, though blue is very rare. In this application, it is typically a red color.
- January also contains the zodiac sign of Capricorn, carrying over from December.
- The month’s birth flowers are the pink carnation and the galanthus, and the Japanese floral emblem is the camellia.
- January starts on the same day of the week as October in common years and April and July in leap years.
- January ends on the same day of the week as October in common years and July in leap years.
Rabbit Rabbit is a project designed to look at each month of the year with respect to history, observances, and more.
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