Friday the 13th. It is something you can’t avoid. You can count on it to happen at least once every year. In 2017 we will have two. Today and Friday, October 13th.
This inauspicious date has plenty of rumors and superstition surrounding it. You have to ask the question – Is there actually any truth behind all the myth and fear mongering? Whether there is or not, there are people who get nervous and just may be a little more careful today.
Why all the anxiety about Friday the 13th?
It seems over the years that Western culture has become ingrained with a fear of Friday the 13th. In other cultures, it’s totally meaningless. Although some of us may be a bit more observant of stepping under ladders or crossing paths with black cats, there a few individuals that experience extreme angst. For that reason, there appear to be some activities or lack of activities on Friday the 13th present a major financial challenge to businesses.
It has been estimated that upwards of $800 to $900 million is lost on that one single day because people refuse to fly, eat in restaurants, buy a house, sign important documents, host a party, apply for a job, get married or act on a hot stock tip. Basically – Friday the 13th has become the day that is not business as usual.
Triskaidekaphobia – Fear of the Number 13
Strictly speaking, triskaidekaphobia refers only to fear of the number 13. It seems a modern amalgamation of two older superstitions: thirteen is an unlucky number and Friday is an unlucky day has resulted in the fear of a double dose of unluckiness. Both Napoleon and President Herbert Hoover suffered from triskaidekaphobia.
The proper name for the fear of Friday the 13th is actually friggatriskaidekaphobia or paraskevidekatriaphobia. Henry Ford would not do business on a Friday the 13th and Franklin Delano Roosevelt avoided travel on that day. Franklin Roosevelt died on the afternoon of Thursday, April 12, 1945.
How do we view the ominous number 13?
- Many buildings and skyscrapers do not have a 13th floor
- Some hospitals avoid labeling rooms with the number 13
- Many airports will not have a gate 13
- Some cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue
- In Florence, Italy, house addresses between number 12 and 14 are addressed as 12 1/2
- In some areas, calling a doctor for the first time on a Friday is a certain omen of death and worse on the 13th
- Cutting hair and nails on a Friday the 13th is a certain path to misfortune.
- The number of property transactions decline on Friday the 13th
- When entertaining, some hosts will not allow 13 people to sit at a table – a second table would be set up if there are exactly 13 guests
- In France socialites known as the quatorzains (“fourteeners”) once made themselves available as a 14th guest to keep a dinner party from an unlucky fate
- Skippers do not favor going out to sea with a crew of 12 because including the captain that made 13 people on board
- Ancient Babylonian Code of Hammurah omitted the number 13 in its list of laws
- The Knights Templar were arrested on Friday, October 13, 1307
- In the Middle Ages, it was believed witches met in covens of 13 – and the 13th member was the devil himself
- On Friday, Oct. 13, 1989, Wall Street saw the second largest drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average in history. The day became known as Friday-the-13th Mini-Crash
- The Apollo 13 lunar mission was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded
- Australia’s biggest wildfire, Florida’s Hurricane Charley, and Kansas’s “Great Flood of 1951” all occurred on a Friday the 13th
How bad is the day, really?
While the majority of us will grit our teeth and muster through the day, Friday the 13th isn’t all bad. Paramount Pictures made a killing (no pun intended) with their multiple Friday the 13th films. Although the movies were never popular with critics, they are considered to be one of the most successful media franchises created in Hollywood.
In 2008 an insurance study was conducted in the Netherlands to prove that Friday the 13th was no different than any other day of the year. The report included two years of data and actually ended up demonstrating the opposite to what was expected. It was revealed that this day is actually a slightly safer day to drive. It was also discovered there were fewer general accidents on that day and fewer reports of fire and theft. The experts believe that preventative actions are likely the reason.
Ancient Mayans considered the number 13 to be sacred so it is entirely possible to turn the tables and make Friday the 13th your super lucky day. It can be as simple as having a good attitude and a relaxed approach to daily life. According to CNN.com, one British couple won $17 million after buying their lottery ticket on Friday 13 – the same day that their mirror at home fell and broke!
“If people believe that something has negative value, if people believe they’re going to experience bad luck on Friday the 13th, it’s more likely to happen to them.” ~ Gary Waite, Professor of Early Modern History, University of New Brunswick
Bring yourself good luck on Friday the 13th
Luck is usually the result of effort and common sense combined. Sometimes people choose to see things as lucky because they were unexpected and other times we know we create our own luck.
- Get out of the bed on the right side (that is, not the left side of the bed)
- Get your most trusted lucky charm out and put it in your pocket for the day
- Tell everyone that 13 is your lucky number
- Pet a black cat. Close your eyes and scratch, listen to the purr. Black cats face terrible discrimination from the superstitious. It still counts if the kitty has white mittens or tuxedo markings
- Avoid useless, purposeless risks
- Clothes worn inside out will bring good luck (well, maybe just your underwear)
Did you know? The Hollywood sign – which originally read HOLLYWOODLAND – was unveiled on Friday 13 July, 1923 and has become one of the world’s biggest tourist attractions.
If you have a few minutes to ‘kill’, have a look at these two videos.
It is bad luck to fall out of a thirteenth story window on Friday.
~ American Proverb
After every Friday 13th, comes a Saturday 14th – it’s the weekend!