Today is Friday the 13th, and in the South, that always spelled bad luck. People didn’t stay inside or act like bad luck was coming. We’d take note it was a day traditionally perceived as unlucky and then go about our business. Why do we even take note of it, though? And why does one megastar consider it her lucky number?
As best I could tell, fear of Friday the 13th—reportedly labeled paraskevidekatriaphobia—is rooted in Biblical scripture. Jesus Christ was crucified on a Friday, and there were 13 people at the Last Supper the night before (Maundy Thursday). This version of the superstition is the one I was taught as a girl.
There is a term for phobia related to the number 13 in general—triskaidekaphobia.
I also wondered why we say 13 will make a ‘Baker’s Dozen.’ Britannica asserts that had to do with a draconian law in England’s past. Bakers could be flogged if their bread loaves were underweight. So they’d toss in a little extra dough to make sure the loaves were above the necessary weight.
National Geographic offers up information about numbers other cultures deem unlucky, including this tidbit about the number 4:
“In China, the pronunciation of the word for the number four is similar to that of the Chinese word for death. Many buildings in China skip a fourth floor, just as U.S. builders sometimes omit floor 13.”
Most of us don’t alter our plans for Friday the 13th. Imagine telling your boss or client, I can’t come in today—it’s an unlucky day. But at the back of our minds, maybe we take less risks on that day so as not to tempt fate.
For megastar Taylor Swift, the number 13 seems to be a charm:
“I was born on the 13th. I turned 13 on Friday the 13th. My first album went gold in 13 weeks. My first #1 song had a 13-second intro,” Swift told MTV News in 2009. “Every time I’ve won an award I’ve been seated in either the 13th seat, the 13th row, the 13th section or row M, which is the 13th letter.”
Earth Sky pointed out there are two Friday the 13ths in 2018:
“The following Friday the 13th on July 13, 2018, comes exactly 13 weeks after the Friday the 13th on April 13, 2018.”
In the South we had all manner of superstitions. The bride can’t see the groom on her wedding day before the actual nuptials occur. When you leave a house, you leave by the door you entered.
We still knock on wood for good luck. Researchers don’t agree on where that custom came from.
I’m still puzzling over the US Library of Congress’ caption for the photo I chose to use with this article. The caption for the photo from Keystone View Co., Inc. reads:
“1 photographic. print. | Rose Cade, who has also been nominated Southern California’s “Swat the Jinx” girl, dressed in model of large lemon pointing to calendar dated Friday, February 13, 1920.”
Rose Cade, as best I could find, was an actress who starred in the silent film A City Sparrow.
That said, enjoy your Friday the 13th just like any other day. But be careful. ?
(Kay B. Day/April 13, 2018)