Friday the 13th

What is the big deal about the terror and tragedy surrounding Friday the 13th and where did it all come from?  There are two Friday the 13th’s this year to cope with cautiously, the first one nearly coming to a timely end.   So should we all ring in sick to work when Friday the 13th arrives? Should we cancel school, lock the door, unplug the phones and hide under the duvet for the day?  Or do we just throw some salt over one shoulder and carry on, business as usual only with one eye out for the odd black cat? 

Well, I’d be more afraid of Friday the 13th if my life weren’t already a series of unexplained happenings and never ending dramas.  However, that’s nothing to do with a superstition that’s just life as a parent.  The only thing I fear about Friday the 13th is someone asking me to pronounce the word that means fear of that day – friggatriskaidekaphobia. That in itself is scary.   However, when my youngest child asked about the story behind this terrible and terrifying day I thought I better look into it. 

Well Friday the 13th is known by many as the unluckiest day of the year.  It’s difficult to pinpoint the origins of this.  The fear of the number thirteen has been well documented.  So much so in fact that many people would prefer if it was taken out of circulation completely.  Hospitals and hotels regularly have no Room 13.  Many airports skip the 13th gate.  More than 80% of high rise buildings around the world lack a 13th floor and indeed most airplanes have no 13th aisle.  There was consternation when the year 2013 was looming and the registration plates of Irish cars would potentially be lumbered with the unlucky number 13.  It could have been a very slow year for car sales.  But where did the Friday fear come into it? Friday of all days.  Fear of Mondays I can totally understand and that’s based on real life experience not on vague superstitions.  But Friday? No work for most people the next day, no school, no early night needed.  What’s not to love?  Well according to Christian tradition, Jesus died on a Friday and since then it was considered an unlucky day.  Combine that with the number 13 and it’s a recipe for doom. 

I’m not superstitious.  I mean, it’s bad luck to be superstitious right?  So my kids are growing up unafraid of broken mirrors, of walking under ladders, of opening umbrellas indoors and the only time they are afraid of a black cat crossing their paths is when the cat is being chased by a Rottweiler.  But what is a superstition and what makes people superstitious?  Well, a superstition is anything that people believe in that is based on myth, magic or irrational thought.  They are also known as old wives tales, legends or traditions and go from the bizarre to the downright ridiculous.  For example, in Iceland there is a superstition surrounding knitting on your doorstep in the later months.  Apparently it brings about a long winter.  Although why you would want to knit outside in an Icelandic winter is anyone’s guess. Another odd superstition has been reported in some part of the UK.  If you utter the word rabbit on waking up on the first day of the month, it will bring you good luck for the whole month.  It absolutely has to be the very first word you say though; otherwise the whole thing is pointless and silly. 

Looking at these makes a superstition around Friday the 13th seem positively tame. I reckon it’s just an excuse people use to take a long weekend and cancel all plans and travel arrangements. Of course in some cultures this date means nothing at all. In Italy the bad luck shifts to Friday the 17th and in France Friday the 13th is seen as a lucky day and a day to play the Lotto. Anyway whatever you do, may your Friday the 13th be filled with cocktails and fun and not horrors and disasters.

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