It's Friday the 13th... but why is today meant to be unlucky?
Hopefully a black cat won’t cross your path today (picture: Getty)

The superstitious among us might be best off staying in bed today.

Yes, that’s because today is Friday the 13th – a day considered by many to be one of the unluckiest days in the calendar.

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In fact, it is believed that as many as 49 million Brits fear the date.

But while many of us will spend the day dodging ladders, black cats and the cracks in the pavement, the day isn’t always  considered the unluckiest.

In different countries, different dates are feared for different reasons. For instance in hispanic countries it is Tuesday the 13th that is thought to be worse.

Here is a little history behind the dates and why it is considered bad luck.

What we know about Friday the 13th

Last Supper, 1494-1498, by Leonardo da Vinci
Da Vinci’s rendition of The Last Supper (Picture: DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Superstition around Friday the 13th is likely to have its origins in the Middle Ages, where it may have developed from the story of The Last Supper.

On Maundy Thursday, the 13th of Nisan in the Assyrian calendar and the day before Jesus’s crucifixion, there were 13 people in the Upper Room for the Last Supper. And then on Good Friday, Jesus died.

There has been evidence over the years of both Friday and the number 13 being unlucky – but it wasn’t until 19th century that the two came together to be considered doubly unlucky.

Friday the 13th had passed into common cultural conversation by the 19th century.

In 1869, Henry Sutherland Edwards’ biography of Gioachino Rossini mentions that the day of his death (Friday the 13th) was significant:

He [Rossini] was surrounded to the last by admiring friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday 13th of November he passed away.

Another historical belief is that the fear of Friday 13th comes from when King Philip IV of France ordered hundreds of Templar Knights to be arrested on Friday 13th 1307.

When they were caught, they were subsequently tortured and burned alive.

Has anything bad ever happened on Friday 13th?

It's Friday the 13th... but why is today meant to be unlucky?

There have been a number of freakish events that have happened on Friday 13th.

Take for example the 13-year-old boy called James Paget who was stuck by lightning at 13.13 on Friday the 13th back in 2010.

And the fateful Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 that crashed on Friday 13th in 1972. Those who survived had to resort to  cannibalism to survive.

Friday 13th isn’t unlucky everywhere…

Woman holding canvas with words "Friday 13" painted in red on black.
Ready for some bad luck? (Picture: Getty)

In Italy, it is Friday the 17th that is considered unlucky. In Hispanic countries, it is Tuesday 13th.

The Greeks feared Tuesdays in general, but Tuesday the 13th for them is particularly unlucky too.

The Savoy Hotel has a sculpture of a cat that it brought to sit at any table with 13 diners to make it up to 14.

He is treated just as well as any other guest, with his own chair, place setting and meal.

So is it really unlucky?

A young businessman slipping on a banana peel
(Picture: Getty)

The British Medical Journal published a study in 2003 that concluded there was an increase in the number of accidents reported on Friday the 13ths in comparison to other random Fridays.

However, just to confuse matters, a study published by the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics (what we wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall in that office) found that in the Netherlands, Friday the 13th sees a significant decline in reported road traffic accidents.

The average accidents figure for a non-13th Friday is 7,800, while for Friday the 13th that average figure falls to 7,500.

Phobia of Friday 13th is a real thing and people have it

If you are one of the people who fear Friday 13th more than most, you may be somewhat comforted to find there’s a name for your phobia: the almost unpronounceable friggatriskaidekaphobia.

It’s a more specific take on triskaidekaphobia, which is a fear of the number 13, thanks to the ‘frigga’ (Friday) prefix.

The fear is also known as paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek Paraskevi, meaning Friday, and dekatris, meaning 13.

One the bright side… or maybe not

Unfortunately we have two Friday the 13ths this year – in January and October.

But considering that there was only one last year, and it was pretty turbulent, you might be surprised by what this year could bring.

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