Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in Western superstition.

It occurs when the 13th day of the month in the Gregorian calendar falls on a Friday, which happens at least once every year but can occur up to three times in the same year, for example in 2015, on 13 February, 13 March and 13 November.

In 2017, it occurred twice, on 13 January and 13 October. In 2018, it also occurred twice, on 13 April and 13 July. There will be two Friday the 13ths every year until 2020; 2021 and 2022 will have just one occurrence each.

A Friday the 13th occurs during any month that begins on a Sunday.

History

The fear of the number 13 has been given a scientific name: “triskaidekaphobia“; and on analogy to this, the fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek words Paraskeví (meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (meaning “thirteen”).

The superstition surrounding this day may have arisen in the Middle Ages, “originating from the story of Jesus‘ last supper and crucifixion” in which there were 13 individuals present in the Upper Room on the 13th of Nisan Maundy Thursday, the night before his death on Good Friday.

While there is evidence of both Friday and the number 13 is considered unlucky, there is no record of the two items being referred to as especially unlucky in conjunction before the 19th century.

An early documented reference in English occurs in Henry Sutherland Edwards’ 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossini, who died on a Friday 13th:

He [Rossini] was surrounded to the last by admiring friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday 13th of November he passed away.

It is possible that the publication in 1907 of Thomas W. Lawson’s popular novel Friday, the Thirteenth, contributed to disseminating the superstition. In the novel, an unscrupulous broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th.

A suggested origin of the superstition—Friday, 13 October 1307, the date Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of the Knights Templar—may not have been formulated until the 20th century.

It is mentioned in the 1955 Maurice Druon historical novel The Iron King (Le Roi de fer), John J. Robinson’s 1989 work Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry, Dan Brown’s 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code and Steve Berry’s The Templar Legacy (2006).

Tuesday the 13th in Hispanic and Greek culture

In Spanish-speaking countries, instead of Friday, Tuesday the 13th (martes trece) is considered a day of bad luck.

The Greeks also consider Tuesday (and especially the 13th) an unlucky day. Tuesday is considered dominated by the influence of Ares, the god of war.

The fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade occurred on Tuesday, April 13, 1204, and the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans happened on Tuesday, 29 May 1453, events that strengthen the superstition about Tuesday.

In addition, in Greek the name of the day is Triti meaning the third (day of the week), adding weight to the superstition, since bad luck is said to “come in threes“.

Tuesday the 13th occurs in a month that begins on a Thursday

Friday the 17th in Italy

In Italian popular culture, Friday the 17th is considered a day of bad luck.

The origin of this belief could be traced in the writing of number 17, in Roman numerals: XVII. By shuffling the digits of the number one can easily get the word VIXI (“I have lived”, implying death in the present), an omen of bad luck.

In fact, in Italy, 13 is generally considered a lucky number. However, due to Americanization, young people consider Friday the 13th unlucky as well.

The 2000 parody film Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth was released in Italy with the title Shriek – Hai impegni per venerdì 17? (“Shriek – Do You Have Something to Do on Friday the 17th?“).

Friday the 17th occurs on a month starting on Wednesday.

Social impact

According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day, making it the most feared day and date in history.

Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they avoid their normal routines in doing business, taking flights or even getting out of bed. “It’s been estimated that $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day“.

Despite this, representatives for both Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines (the latter now merged into United Airlines) have stated that their airlines do not suffer from any noticeable drop in travel on those Fridays.

In Finland, a consortium of governmental and nongovernmental organizations led by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health promotes the National Accident Day (kansallinen tapaturmapäivä) to raise awareness about automotive safety, which always falls on a Friday the 13th.

The event is coordinated by the Finnish Red Cross and has been held since 1995.

Rate of accidents

A study in the British Medical Journal, published in 1993, attracted some attention from popular science-literature, as it concluded that “‘the risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52 percent’ on the 13th“; however, the authors clearly state that “the numbers of admissions from accidents are too small to allow meaningful analysis“.

Subsequent studies have disproved any correlation between Friday the 13th and the rate of accidents.

On the contrary, the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics on 12 June 2008 stated that:

“fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of the month falls on a 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, at least in the Netherlands; in the last two years, Dutch insurers received reports of an average 7,800 traffic accidents each Friday; but the average figure when the 13th fell on a Friday was just 7,500.”

References:

*This article was originally published at en.wikipedia.org.