It is the unluckiest of days.
People fear Friday the 13th for a variety of reasons, some logical and some illogical.
But the fact remains: most people believe the day is unlucky, if for no other reason than for its own sake.
Some say the apprehension stems from two separate fears—the fear of the number 13 and the fear of Fridays.
Both fears have deep roots in Western culture, most notably Christian theology.
Thirteen is significant to Christians because it is the number of people who were present at the Last Supper (Jesus and his 12 apostles). Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th member of the party to arrive.
Christians also have traditionally been wary of Fridays because Jesus was crucified on a Friday.
Superstitions regarding the day, however, are perhaps more far reaching than merely having religious significance.
In both North America and Europe, a sizable portion of the population behaves strangely on Friday the 13th.
Some people refuse to fly airplanes, host a party, apply for a job, get married or even go to work.
In the United States, roughly 8 percent of the population suffers from a condition known as “paraskevidekatriaphobia,” commonly known as “fear of Friday the 13th.”
Here are some related superstitions concerning the number 13:
- More than 80 percent of high-rises lack a 13th floor.
- Many airports skip the 13th gate.
- Airplanes have no 13th aisle.
- Hospitals and hotels regularly have no room number 13.
- Italians omit the number 13 from their national lottery.
- On the streets of Florence, Italy, the house between number 12 and 14 is addressed as 12 and one-half.
- Many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue.
And if you have 13 letters in your name, you will have the devil’s luck. Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy, and Albert De Salvo all had 13 letters in their names.
Any month’s 13th day will fall on Friday if the month starts on a Sunday.
At most, it occurs only three times in a single year.
According to folklorists, there is no written evidence for a “Friday the 13th” superstition before the 19th century.
The earliest known documented reference in English occurs in an 1869 biography of one Gioachino Rossini who reportedly regarded Friday as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number. It is remarkable that Rossini died on Friday, the 13th of November.
In numerology, meanwhile, the number twelve is considered the number of completeness, as reflected in the twelve months of the year, twelve signs of the zodiac, twelve hours of the clock, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve apostles of Jesus, twelve gods of Olympus—whereas the number thirteen is considered irregular, transgressing this completeness.
At the same time, Friday has been considered an unlucky day since the 14th century’s The Canterbury Tales.
Black Friday has been associated with stock market crashes and other disasters since the 1800s.
The actual origin of the superstition appears to be a tale in Norse mythology.
Friday is named for Frigga, the free-spirited goddess of love and fertility.
When Norse and Germanic tribes converted to Christianity, Frigga was banished in shame to a mountaintop and labeled a witch.
It was believed that every Friday, the spiteful goddess convened a meeting with eleven other witches, plus the devil—a gathering of thirteen—and plotted ill turns of fate for the coming week.
For many centuries in Scandinavia, Friday was known as “Witches Sabbath.”
According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Ashville, N.C., an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of Friday the 13th.
Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they even avoid getting out of bed.
There are some conflicting studies, though, about the risk of accidents on Friday the 13th.
The Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics stated that “fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of the month falls on Friday than on other Fridays, because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home.
Statistically speaking, driving is slightly safer on Friday the 13th in the Netherlands.
But such is not the case in Great Britain, where the British Medical Journal reported an increase in traffic-related accidents on Fridays in one study, which compared Fridays with other days of the week.
The boost in the number of accidents on Fridays in that country was attributed to an increase in alcohol consumption by motorists prior to the weekend.
We all know that it is unlucky to drive while intoxicated—on Friday the 13th or any other day of the month.
Top o’ the morning!