It’s Friday, the 13th of December today, and there are many, many superstitions and traditions linked with this day.
For instance, on Friday the 13th, you must not let an owl look at you. Now, how you are supposed to know an owl is looking at you, I do not know. But don’t let it happen. Not today.
Per history.com, “While Western cultures have historically associated the number 12 with completeness (there are 12 days of Christmas, 12 months and zodiac signs, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 gods of Olympus and 12 tribes of Israel, just to name a few examples), its successor 13 has a long history as a sign of bad luck.
The ancient Code of Hammurabi, for example, reportedly omitted a 13th law from its list of legal rules. Though this was probably a clerical error, superstitious people sometimes point to this as proof of 13’s longstanding negative associations.
In Christianity, Jesus was betrayed by one of his 12 Apostles—Judas—who was the 13th guest to arrive for the Last Supper. And Jesus was crucified on a Friday.
Friday was traditionally crucifixion day in Rome. Yeah, I know. King Philip IV of France would torture people on Fridays. In Britain, public hangings mainly took place on Friday. And in 19th century America, Friday was execution day.
So combine Friday with the unlucky 13, and you have a perfect storm of bad luck. The superstition is especially prominent in Western cultures. Ancient Egyptians actually considered 13 a lucky number. And is most of Asia, four is considered problematic.
And actually, in Greece and Spain, it’s Tuesday, the 13th that should be avoided, and in Italy it’s Friday the 17th that is considered unlucky.
But it’s Friday the 13th that makes people shudder in most of the western 4world. It even has a name. Paraskevidekatriaphobia. That’s from the Greek words Paraskeví meaning Friday and dekatreís meaning thirteen. Which is ironic, given that the Greeks are apparently more concerned about Tuesdays. So their phobia is actually Tritidekatriaphobia.
In Norse countries it is friggatriskaidekaphobia. Frigg is the Norse goddess for Friday.
According to timeanddate.com, paraskevidekatriaphobia can cause some economic harm. Airlines suffer losses on Friday the 13th. That makes sense. Most of us are somewhat uneasy about flying anyway, why tempt fate? But…. if you want to be assured a roomy flight with no one packed into the seat beside you, booking a ticket on Friday the 13th would seem a wise move.
And here’s some interested Friday the 13th trivia.
All years will have at least one Friday the 13th, but there cannot be more than three in a year. For a month to have a Friday the 13th, the month must begin on a Sunday.
And here’s more. If a year (not a leap year) begins on a Thursday, the months of February, March and November will have a Friday the 13th. That won’t happen again until 2026.
With all the superstition, there is little evidence that the day is actually unlucky. There doesn’t appear to be any proven effect on accidents, hospital visits or natural disasters.
But, if you didn’t call into work this morning with a severe case of friggatriskaidekaphobia, that’s an opportunity lost.