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Why is Friday the 13th an unlucky day and what is it that makes people so superstitious?




The only Friday the 13th of the year is here and for the superstitious it means just one thing: The very real risk of bad luck.

And with both the number 13 and the day Friday having a long history of bringing nothing but trouble, when you combine the two it's perhaps no surprise some think it's a day best avoided. Here's why:

Research has suggested those who are superstitious would avoid big trips on days like Friday the 13th
Research has suggested those who are superstitious would avoid big trips on days like Friday the 13th

How often does the day come around?

Most calendar years will have two Friday the 13ths - sometimes it is possible to even have three.

But 2021 has just one supposedly unlucky day of the year, which may be a relief considering all that we've endured since the start of January.

For the very superstitious, the name given to a fear of Friday the 13th is Paraskevidekatriaphobia. Triskaidekaphobia is used to describe a phobia of the number 13.

There is just one Friday the 13th in 2021
There is just one Friday the 13th in 2021

What is it about Friday and the number 13?

Many think the number 13's label as unlucky dates back to biblical times and the Last Supper.

Judas, who betrayed Jesus, was thought to have been the 13th guest to sit down at the table among the disciples. While in Norse mythology a dinner party of gods was said to have been ruined by the 13th guest Loki - who was the god of mischief and disorder.

Superstitions about 13 guests sitting around a table remain today
Superstitions about 13 guests sitting around a table remain today

For hundreds and hundreds of years Friday has also been considered the most unlucky day of the week, particularly in Britain.

Forget that Friday feeling, it's more a case of Friday dread for those that believe such superstitions - although this was perhaps understandable when Friday in Britain was known as Hangman's Day because it was usually the day those who had been condemned to death would be hanged.

While in Chaucer's famous Canterbury Tales, written in the 14th Century, he said "and on a Friday fell all this mischance" suggesting that Friday has long been declared the most unlucky day of the week.

What about superstitions today?

Breaking a mirror, hanging a horseshoe the wrong way up, walking under a ladder, opening an umbrella indoors, having a black cat cross your path or putting new shoes on the table - there are huge numbers of superstitious acts that we perhaps avoid doing, sometimes out of just habit, because of their rumoured risk of bringing bag luck upon ourselves.

How superstitious are you? Is there anything unlucky about a black cat?
How superstitious are you? Is there anything unlucky about a black cat?

But there are also some directly associated with Friday and the number 13.

Considering a dining table's unfortunate history with the number 13, it's a long-running tradition of many restaurants that they don't have a table 13 for their guests. You will often find table plans of some eateries leaping from 12 to 14 as restaurateurs avoid any association with the unlucky number.

And if you want to go further in preventing any bad luck coming your way it is also said by many that you should not wash any clothes or do housework on Good Friday. According to Catholic tradition it risks bringing bad luck upon you or your family while children climbing trees the Friday before Easter was also said to be avoided because of a tree's close association with the cross Jesus died on.

In 2010 the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in North Carolina estimated that around 15-20 million Americans suffered from a fear of Friday the 13th and subsequently between $700 million and $800 million are lost every Friday the 13th because people prefer to not travel, go to large events or purchase major items on this date.

While in Ireland back in 2013 the government brought in a new licence plate system over fears that a 13 registration number could affect the number of car sales. Instead cars registered in the first half of the year were given a 131 registration or 132 on the number plate for those registered between July and the end of the year.



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