Why Friday the 13th is considered unlucky and how often the date occurs

by 24britishtvMay 13, 2022, 11 a.m. 11
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Of all the superstitions that endure in modern society, one of the most widely known is the old adage that Friday the 13th is somehow unlucky.

The date can creep up on us once, twice or even three times a year, bringing with it, we are led to believe, a heightened potential for mishaps and misfortune.

But why does this superstition exist, and what are its origins? Here’s everything you need to know.

Why is Friday the 13th unlucky?

There are various theories as why Friday 13th is considered a particularly unlucky date, but both both the number 13 and the day of Friday have carried negative connotations throughout history.

The irrational fear of the number 13 is called “triskaidekaphobia,” and some suggest it linked to idea that 12 is a number of perfection.

This stems from there being 2 months in a year, 12 hours on a clock and 12 zodiac signs, making 13 seem an irrational number that brings bad luck.

Dinner parties of 13 people are still considered unlucky, while many hotels don’t have a room number 13 and certain major airlines don’t have a 13th row on flights.

Some claim the root of the Friday the 13th superstition lies in the story of Jesus’s last supper and crucifixion.

The The Last Supper painting by Leonardo da Vinci shows 13 people gathered on the night before Good Friday – the date of Christ’s death – with Judas the 13th member of the party.

It’s also been suggested that the superstition comes from an incident that took place way back on Friday 13th 1307, when Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of the Knights Templar.

This is mentioned in the 1955 historical novel The Iron King by Maurice Druon and later in Dan Brown’s 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code, as well as in various other publications.

However it’s appears that there is no record of Friday and the 13th being referred to as unlucky together until the 19th century.

Henry Sutherland Edwards’ 1869 biography of Italian composer Gioachino Rossini, who died on Friday 13th November, states that Rossini regarded Friday as an unlucky day and the 13th as an unlucky number.

And it’s possible that the novel titled Friday, the Thirteenth, written by Thomas W. Lawson in 1907 helped spread the superstition.

This tells the story of an unscrupulous broker who takes advantage of the Friday 13th superstition to create a Wall Street panic on that date.

Do other countries find Friday the 13th unlucky?

While Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky date in UK and the US, the superstition is by no means universal across the world.

In Spanish-speaking countries, Tuesday 13th (or Martes Trece) is considered a day of bad luck, occurring on months that start on a Thursday.

Greek people also consider Tuesday, and especially Tuesday 13th, to be unlucky.

In Greek mythology, Ares – the god of war – is associated with Tuesday, and various unfortunate historical events took place on Tuesday 13th, such as the fall of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade on Tuesday 13 April 1204.

Meanwhile in Italy, 13 is actually considered a lucky number, which was also the case in ancient Egypt and China.

Friday 17th rather than 13th is the day of bad luck in Italy, and it’s said that this comes from the number’s Roman numerals (XVII).

By shuffling the digits around, you can get the word VIXI, which in Latin means ‘I have lived’, implying death in the present and an omen of bad luck.

How many times a year do we get Friday 13th?

Friday 13th is by no means a rare phenomenon – the date occurs at least once every year, and it happens every time a month starts with a Sunday.

On some extra unlucky years we can get three Friday 13ths – as was the case in 2015.

However, just like in 2021, this year we’re thankfully only getting it once, on Friday 13 May.

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