Are You Spooked by Friday 13th?
Does the idea of traveling – or doing anything – on Friday the 13th make you a bit uneasy? Even if you are not superstitious, you might find yourself taking a little bit more care on a date perceived by many to be unlucky. We’ve already had one Friday 13th this year, in January, and there’s another one coming in July. But how much truth is there in the idea that this date is unlucky and where did the superstition come from?
Is Friday the 13th Really Unlucky?
Let’s look at the date first. You might be interested to know that this is not a worldwide superstition. In Spanish-speaking countries, Tuesday the 13th is seen as unlucky, and there are no bad omens associated with Fridays with that date. Perhaps that’s because in those countries, the name of the day (Martes) is associated with Mars, the god of war. For many Italians, the 13th is a lucky date, but superstitious Italians may fear Friday 17th. Back in the time of the pharaohs, 13 was a lucky number for the Egyptians.
The Start of the Superstition
Where and when did the superstition start? No-one knows for sure, but the first documented reference to the unluckiness of the date was in 1869. Friday has been seen as an unlucky day for far longer, with references in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (14th century). And 13 has been seen as unlucky, possibly because 12 was seen as a complete number, whether you’re talking disciples, months of the year, hours of the clock or astrological signs. Both in Norse mythology and in the Bible (the Last Supper), a 13th guest turned out to be very unlucky for the host. The truth is, though, that no-one knows for sure, though some people believe that the modern preoccupation with this as an unlucky date goes back to the publication of a novel in 1907 by Thomas W. Lawson. It was called Friday the 13th. (See the last section of this article for more on that.)
Whether there’s any truth in the superstition or not, enough people believe in it to make it a factor. A 2004 National Geographic article estimated that $900m worth of business was lost on Friday 13th because of people avoiding their normal behavior. Some people won’t travel on that day for fear of bad luck.
Strange Friday the 13th Facts
- Hotels and skyscrapers generally don’t have a 13th floor (or at least they don’t call it that) and some hospitals have no room 13.
- Jesus was crucified on a Friday.
- In ancient Europe, Friday was the day that most executions took place.
Want to know more. Check out this infographic on 13 Terrible Things That Happened on Friday the 13th.