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 May.
May was named for the Greek goddess Maia, identified with the Roman goddess of fertility Bona Dea. The festival celebrating the Roman goddess was held in the same month. The late Russian Empire also used the term for a picnic held early in the month. This picnic, mayovka, evolved into an illegal celebration of May 1st (a day of worker revolution).
In the ancient Roman calendar, the month is a big one for festivals. Bona Dea fell on May 1, Argei fell on May 14 or May 15, Agonalia fell on May 21, and Ambarvalia on May 29. Floralia, which began on April 27, carried on until May 3. Lemuria (festival) fell on 9,11, and 13 May under the Julian calendar. The College of Aesculapius and Hygia celebrated two festivals of Rosalia on May 11 and May 22. Rosalia was also celebrated at Pergamon on May 24–26. A military Rosalia festival, Rosaliae signorum, also occurred on May 31.
Ludi Fabarici was celebrated between May 29 and June 1. Mercury would receive a sacrifice on the Ides of May (May 15). Tubilustrium took place on May 23 as well as in March. These dates do not correspond to the modern Gregorian calendar.
May also holds several special devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary in Catholic circles.
Further observances are plentiful, including Celiac Awareness Month, Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Awareness month, International Mediterranean Diet Month, the Season of Emancipation (spanning April 14 to August 23 in Barbados), Better Hearing and Speech Month, the Kaamatan harvest festival in Labuan and Sabah, Flores de Mayo in the Philippines, Garden for Wildlife month, New Zealand Music Month, National Pet Month in the United Kingdom, Skin Cancer Awareness Month, National Smile Month in the UK, South Asian Heritage Month, World Trade Month, and Huntington’s Disease Awareness Month.
The United States adds another batch, including Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, National ALS Awareness Month, Bicycle Month, National Brain Tumor Awareness Month, National Burger Month, Community Action Awareness Month (in North Dakota), National Electrical Safety Month, National Foster Care Month, National Golf Month, Jewish American Heritage Month, Haitian Heritage Month, Hepatitis Awareness Month, Mental Health Awareness Month, National Military Appreciation Month, National Moving Month, Older Americans Month, National Osteoporosis Month, National Stroke Awareness Month, and National Water Safety Month.
It makes a lot of sense in the Northern Hemisphere since May is the gateway to the summer months.
- May’s birthstone is the emerald. It is emblematic of love and success.
- The western zodiac signs of May are Taurus (until May 19) and Gemini (May 20 and beyond).
- The month’s birth flowers are the Lily of the Valley and the Crataegus monogyna. They are both native the cool and temperate climates of Asia and Europe, as well as the southern Appalachian Mountains in the United States.
- Another significant flower is the Mayflower (Epigaea repens), a North American harbinger of the month and the floral emblem of both Nova Scotia and Massachusetts.
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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