Where the superstition surrounding the date comes from – and how often it falls
Or maybe it’s Tuesday we should be worried about…
Friday 13th creeps up on us once, twice or sometimes even three times a year, and while some people treat it with a pinch of salt, others are paralysed with fear on this ill-boding date.
But where does the superstition come from and how often does Friday 13th come around?
How many times a year do we get Friday 13th?
Friday 13th feels like a very rare phenomenon, but each year we get it at least once – it happens every time a month starts with a Sunday.
On some extra unlucky years we can get three Friday 13ths. For example, in 2015, the 13th of the month fell on a Friday three times – in February, March and November.
Read more: Friday the 13th: Forget it — Safety experts say Tuesday the 8th is now more dangerous
In 2018 it occurred twice, in April and July, and this year there are also two – this month and in December. Next year we’ll have another double-whammy of bad luck, with the 13th to fall on a Friday in March and November.
But come 2021, we’ll be back to just one Friday 13th, and the same goes for 2022.
Where did the superstition come from?
There are various theories about why Friday 13th is considered an unlucky date. Throughout history, both the number 13 and the day of Friday have been considered unlucky, so combined the bad luck is magnified.
Some attribute the superstitions around Friday 13th to the story of Jesus’s last supper and crucifixion. The painting of The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci presents 13 people in the Upper Room on the 13th of Nisan Maundy Thursday, the night before Jesus’s death on Good Friday.
However it’s been argued that there’s no record of Friday and the 13th being referred to as unlucky before the 19th century.
In Henry Sutherland Edwards’ 1869 biography of Italian composer Gioachino Rossini, who died on Friday 13th November, it’s documented that Rossini regarded Friday as an unlucky day and the 13th as an unlucky number.
It’s also possible that the novel titled Friday, the Thirteenth, written by Thomas W. Lawson in 1907 helped spread the superstition.
The book tells the story of an unscrupulous broker who takes advantage of the Friday 13th superstition to create a Wall Street panic on that date.
It’s also been suggested that the superstition comes from an incident that took place way back on Friday 13th 1307, when Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of the Knights Templar.
This is mentioned in the 1955 historical novel The Iron King by Maurice Druon and later in Dan Brown’s 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code, as well as in various other publications.
Do other countries believe Friday 13th is unlucky?
In the UK and the US, Friday 13th is considered an unlucky date, however this doesn’t hold true for all countries.
In Spanish-speaking countries, Tuesday 13th (or Martes Trece) is considered a day of bad luck, and this occurs on months that start on a Thursday.
The Greeks also consider Tuesday, and especially Tuesday 13th, to be unlucky.
In Greek mythology, Ares the god of war is associated with Tuesday, and various unfortunate historical events took place on Tuesday 13th.
These include the fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade, which happened on Tuesday 13 April 1204 and the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans, which took place on Tuesday 29 May 1453.
Meanwhile in Italy, 13 is actually considered a lucky number – and this was also the case in ancient Egypt and China.
Friday 17th rather than 13th is the day of bad luck in Italy, and it’s said that this comes from the number’s Roman numerals (XVII).
By shuffling the digits around, you can get the word VIXI, which in Latin means ‘I have lived’, implying death in the present and an omen of bad luck.
Why are people afraid of the number 13?
The irrational fear of the number 13 is called “triskaidekaphobia”.
It’s been said that fear of the number 13 is linked to 12 being a number of perfection.
For example, there are 12 months in a year, 12 hours on a clock and 12 zodiac signs, making 13 seem an irrational number that brings bad luck.
Dinner parties of 13 people are still considered unlucky, and many hotels don’t have a room number 13. Some major airlines, such as Air France, Lufthansa and Ryanair, don’t have a 13th row.
How does superstition around Friday 13th impact society?
While some people take the superstition around Friday 13th with a pinch of salt, other people avoid going to work or driving on Friday 13th for fear that something bad might happen.
And according to an article on CNBC, the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in North Carolina estimates between $700 million and $800 million are lost every Friday the 13th because of people’s refusal to travel, purchase major items or conduct business.
Are there more accidents on Friday 13th?
A study published in the British Medical Journal in 1993 drew wide media interest for stating: “Friday 13th is unlucky for some. The risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52%. Staying at home is recommended.”
However, since then there has been no conclusive study to suggest that there are any more accidents on Friday 13th than any other day of the year.
In fact, a recent study by CE Safety found that people are more likely to die at work on Tuesday the 8th.
That said, several accidents in history have taken place on Friday 13th, for example:
- The Costa Concordia cruise liner disaster which killed 32 people, happened on January 13, 2012
- Buckingham Palace was bombed on September 13, 1940, during WW2
- In 1972, Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashed a glacier in the remote Andes on October 13
- Tupac Shakur passed away on September 13, 1996, after being shot on September 7
So whether you believe the superstitious hype or see it as just a bit of fun, try to stay safe this Friday 13th – and don’t walk under any ladders.