13 May 2022

5 mins read

Is Friday the 13th Really Unlucky? Here’s the Background Story | Zenyum SG

Are you superstitious? Whether you are or aren't, Friday the 13th is definitely known to us all. So what makes this seemingly random day so unlucky?

black cat peeking out from behind wall

Disclaimer: no, we’re not talking about the movie franchise that causes hockey-goalie mask sales to skyrocket every Halloween. We’re talking about the actual date. Have you ever wondered why Friday the 13th is special in any way? How can a random day (which isn’t that special actually – it can occur up to six times a year) be associated with bad luck?

Well, we’re here to answer that question. Just because.

Unlucky much?

You may have noticed the lack of a 13th floor at certain hotels, buildings, or even the skipping of a 13th street. In fact, some governments even skip the number 13 in their laws or policy documents.  Believe it or not, it’s all due to a fear of the bad luck the number brings. There’s even a name for the irrational phobia of the number 13: triskaidekaphobia. Try saying that 13 times fast…

However, it may not be as irrational as it seems. The fear of the number 13 traces its roots all the way back to biblical times. The Last Supper, namely, the last supper that Jesus Christ had with his disciples before his horrifying death by crucifixion on Good Friday, had 13 guests. The last of which was Judas Iscariot, one of the 12 disciples who, as the story goes, ratted Jesus out to the Roman authorities who wanted his head.

Judas’ sticky end (trigger warning: he ended up hanging himself) after his betrayal of Jesus was widely known, and in combination with his tardiness to the Last Supper that resulted in him being the 13th guest, the number 13 has gone down in history as an unlucky number. 

The Bible can’t take all the credit though. In Norse mythology, Loki – who’s not quite as charming as Tom Hiddleston makes him seem in the movie – was an uninvited 13th guest to a feast where he orchestrated the death of another Norse god.

Why Friday? Why not any other day?

So we’ve covered why the number 13 could be considered unlucky, if not downright tragic. But why Friday? Yup, back to the Bible to answer this one.

Rumour has it that Friday is the day that Adam and Eve took a bite from that goshdarn forbidden fruit that got them kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Some also say that Friday is the day that their son, Cain, slayed his brother Abel. It’s also, of course, the day that Jesus died on the cross. So, as you can see, Friday has been the biblical day of choice for bad vibes, regrettable life decisions, family drama, and general calamity. 

If you’ve noticed a trend, the vast majority of the legend stems from the Bible, and so the fear of Friday the 13th has spread along with Christianity. But, in some cultures, it’s not Friday the 13th that’s feared – in Italy, for example, it’s Friday the 17th with the bad rap.

Do bad things actually happen on Friday the 13th?

It would seem that the answer is both yes, and no. 

Plenty of bad things have happened on Friday the 13th. The bombing of Buckingham Palace during World War II for example, happened on Friday, 13th September, 1940. The murder of Tupac Shakur, legendary rapper, also occurred on Friday, the 13th of September, 1996. (Wait up…is September bad luck too?) 

But, these are likely coincidences. According to a German study, accidents, errors, and medical emergencies were no more likely to occur on Friday the 13th than any other day. In fact, while some believe that the stock market would perform poorly on Friday the 13th because of investor superstition, research proved that it actually performed slightly better than average. 

While certain studies have found that traffic accidents seem slightly more likely on Friday the 13th, it’s likely due to our own human nature. Naturally, nervous drivers aren’t the safest. Not to mention, the study only looked at traffic related accidents in a small town. Safe to say, it doesn’t hold up too well to scientific scrutiny.

Have any anti-bad luck tips?

If Friday the 13th still leaves you feeling queasy, there’s no harm in trying to counter any bad juju that may be lurking. So, rest easy and just follow these superstitious tips. No solid science here, but hey, if they worked for people for more than two millennia, they might work for you…

  1. Pick up a penny, pencil, pin or piece of coal in the street. As the saying goes, “Find a penny, pick it up, all the day, you’ll have good luck!”

  2. Wear red. Red is considered to be good luck in many Asian cultures. While Friday the 13th is a largely Western superstition, a little cultural mash-up might just do the trick!

  3. Wake up on the right side of the bed, literally. Romans believed that anything to do with the left side was bad luck, and the right was good. We’re not sure how this works if you have a single sized bed though. Romans must have all had big beds…

  4. Carry a Hamsa hand charm. In Middle Eastern culture, the Hamsa hand’s eye looks out for the owner, protecting them from harm, and the “evil eye”.

  5. Get yourself a Maneki-neko. This famous waving cat doesn’t just greet you at restaurants – if it raises its left paw, it attracts customers and good business for business owners. The right paw, in turn, attracts money and prosperity. You can even get them in different colours, for different purposes. A calico Maneki-neko is known for bringing extreme good luck! It’ll bring a whole new meaning to the term “cat person”.

Now that you know all about the history of Friday the 13th, and how you can ward off any bad vibes it may bring, the only thing left to do is to Smile More. After all, is there a better good luck charm than that amazing smile of yours? 

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Is Friday the 13th Really Unlucky? Here’s the Background Story | Zenyum SG


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