Last year, we survived three separate Friday the 13ths. In the year 2013, we must endure two more of them: one in September and one in December. And to make matters worse, they are exactly thirteen weeks apart. (Gulp.) But before we cling to our rabbit’s feet and knock on wood in preparation, we should investigate the origins of this popular superstition.
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Sometimes referred to as “paraskevidekatriaphobia,” the fear of Friday the 13th is a widespread phenomenon, as is the fear of the number thirteen in general. A common theory as to why people are uncomfortable with the day can be traced back to the Bible. Supposedly, Adam and Eve gave into temptation and ate the forbidden fruit on a Friday. Judas, the disciple who later betrayed Jesus, was the thirteenth guest at the Last Supper. And according to Christian beliefs, Jesus’ crucifixion took place on a Friday.
Nowadays, many people view Friday as a good day and most full-time workers and students even look forward to it. However, when combined with the terrifying number thirteen, Friday becomes a day to be feared and dreaded. The fear of the number thirteen is much more prominent in modern culture than other superstitions. Many hotels and buildings skip the thirteenth floor, and some airports even omit “13” when numbering their gates. This fear is called “triskaidekaphobia.”
Whether or not these superstitions are rational is up for debate, but there are also plenty of good things that involve the number thirteen. For example, a baker’s dozen consists of thirteen delicious treats rather than twelve. More is always better, especially when it comes to baked goods. (For what it’s worth, this is sometimes called a “devil’s dozen” as well.) In Judaism, a boy becomes a man at the age of thirteen and celebrates a Bar Mitzvah. Also, the American flag features thirteen red and white stripes to honor the first thirteen colonies.
In sports, plenty of popular players have worn the number thirteen on their jerseys. Legendary basketball player Wilt Chamberlain wore the number throughout his career in the NBA. NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino wore “13” on his jersey, too. And of course, Alex Rodriguez has been wearing the number thirteen ever since he joined the New York Yankees (we aren’t sure which category this falls under, though).
Again, these are only theories and ideas. The true origin of Friday the 13th and its negative connotation is unknown, similar to the origins of many other common superstitions and beliefs. For example, some other bad luck superstitions include walking under ladders, breaking mirrors, seeing black cats, and opening umbrellas indoors.
Many people like to think that if they don’t believe in these ideas, then they won’t be affected by the negative consequences that follow. If that is how you plan to approach this upcoming Friday the 13th, well… Good luck with that.