Do you believe in bad luck? If you do, you may be crossing your fingers and knocking on wood today — which is infamously the unluckiest day of them all.
But if you don’t, you’re probably rolling your eyes at everyone avoiding ladders and mirrors and cracks in the sidewalk. It seems silly that a simple date would cause such a hassle. What’s more, there’s every reason to believe this Friday the 13th is going to bring out the sides of people that should probably stay hidden. With a global pandemic that’s infecting tens of thousands and closing schools and workplaces around the world, bad luck is written on more than just your investment portfolio.
Even if you’re not a believer, Friday the 13th is one of those things that still sticks in the back of your mind. It’s like a chain email that says, “Forward this to 15 people or your mom will die at 10 p.m. tonight.” It’s annoying, and you’ll probably delete it, but you don’t entirely forget about it… at least until after 10 p.m., and you’ve called your mom just to be sure.
So when did the day of bad luck start, and what caused it? Here are 13 fun facts about Friday the 13th:
Friday the 13th Facts
13. It only happens when the month begins on a Sunday.
If the month kicks off on any other day of the week, you can consider yourself safe.
12. It happens every 212.35 days.
So in every year, there will be at least one Friday the 13th. This is actually the most common number — with 44% of years experiencing one of these unlucky date/weekday combos. But there can also be a max of three of them in a single year, which happens about 15% of the time. (You may want to double-check a calendar before setting that wedding date).
11. Friday the 13th is all about numbers.
This accursed day comes from a fear of the number 13. And a fear of numbers isn’t all that uncommon. Certain cultures place heavy significance around numbers — with families even having specific address criteria while shopping for homes — and there are numbers that are considered lucky and numbers that are considered unlucky. You probably know that 666 is associated with the devil, and so is 3 a.m. So what’s up with the number 13?
10. 13 can be tied to Christianity and Norse mythology.
After Christianity was popularized, the number 13 came to be associated with Jesus and his 12 disciples. Specifically with the Last Supper, where Judas was received as the 13th guest. For those who don’t know much about the religion, the “Last Supper” is really all you need to hear to get the gist.
It’s also an unlucky number in Norse mythology, where Loki (known as the trickster) crashed a dinner party as the 13th guest and reigned chaos upon Valhalla.
9. Superstition about 13 came to a head in the 19th century.
Although no one had connected it with the day Friday yet, humans were notoriously superstitious about the number 13. In fact, they began purposely leaving the 13th floor out of their skyscrapers, which is why you may notice it missing in historical architecture. A commonly held belief was that if 13 people met in a single room, one of them would die within the year.
But for all the people who religiously avoided 13, there were, of course, people who confronted it. “Thirteen Clubs” were founded across the country; with the only guiding principle that they be a club made up of 13 men, to defy the so-called odds and disprove the theory about 13 being unlucky. Five U.S. presidents belonged to Thirteen Clubs, including Chester A. Arthur and Theodore Roosevelt.
8. But Fridays have been bad luck since the 14th century.
There’s no definitive beginning to Friday being known as an unlucky day. But one of the first times it’s mentioned is in the famous Canterbury Tales, created by Geoffrey Chaucer in the late 1300s. However, it was written with a bit of irony, so it’s unclear if Chaucer really thought of Fridays as being all that misfortunate. But he wasn’t the only writer to take this point of view.
In 1633, playwright William Rowley called Fridays “the most unfortunate day in the whole week.” This sentiment was echoed by the English poet Richard Fleckinoe, who wrote, “Now Friday came, you old wives say, Of all the week’s the unluckiest day.” And it caught on.
By 1898, the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable included the fact that Friday was considered an unlucky day in Spain. Soon to be the rest of the world, too.
7. Friday and 13 were officially combined by author Thomas Lawson.
Lawson — a controversial stock market promoter who made a fortune through suspicious stock activity — wrote a book in 1907 called Friday, the Thirteenth. The book’s protagonist, a stockbroker, purposely crashes the stock market on that fateful day. It sparked such public interest that it made headlines a year later, when a real-life senator introduced 13 new bills to the Senate on Friday the 13th.
6. FDR was scared of Friday the 13th.
The 32nd American president was considered “mildly superstitious” by his biographer John Gunther. Roosevelt, who was so popular he was elected four times, had a definitive fear of bad luck. Gunther wrote, “He hated Friday the thirteenth, he would never start an important trip on a Friday if he could help it, and he disliked sitting down with thirteen at dinner.”
5. The 1980 movie cemented Friday the 13th as the day of bad luck.
The original Friday the 13th film featured the infamous villain Jason Vorhees, who was born on… you guessed it! Friday the 13th. And in the decade following The Exorcist and The Omen, horror was one of the most popular genres. The franchise included 12 movies — a curious number — which held the record as the highest-grossing horror franchise until Halloween surpassed it in 2018.
4. People are still afraid of it — and it shows.
According to Vox, fear of Friday the 13th contributes to $700 to $900 million in lost revenue every time the day occurs. Flights are also generally cheaper on Friday the 13th, as many people don’t want to chance a plane crash. And you may even notice a dip in the stock market. Though, with the current state of stocks, it probably won’t make a difference.
3. Others get tattoos to commemorate it.
Friday the 13th is actually a pretty big day for tattoo shops. Many artists will advertise discounted “flash” tattoos on this day, and a lot of the designs are different variations of the number 13, or horror-related.
2. Here are some celebrities born on Friday the 13th:
Christopher Plummer, Steve Buscemi, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kate Walsh, Kat Dennings, and the Olsen twins were all born on Friday the 13th. Suffice it to say that they’ve all experienced a good deal of good luck in their careers.
1. There’s no evidence that Friday the 13th is any less lucky than another day.
Ultimately, Friday the 13th was born from a mixture of mythology, religion, and literature — and the day and date weren’t even combined until a fictional book gave them credence. Just like the fear of black cats, Friday the 13th is mistakenly believed to be bad luck when there’s no real evidence to back it up.
So, if you really have to, forward that chain email in your inbox and step over the cracks in the sidewalk. But just like the Thirteen Clubs discovered in the 1800s, nothing all that bad happens on Friday the 13th. And if it does, it’s (probably) just coincidence.
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