What is Friday the 13th, Friday the 13th meaning, what happened on Friday 13th, why is Friday 13th unlucky

The combination of Friday and the number 13 have long been considered unlucky. But why is Friday the 13 considered unlucky, how frequent is it and what is the history of the superstition?

What is the history of Friday the 13th? Cr: Getty Images/Canva Pro
What is the history of Friday the 13th? Cr: Getty Images/Canva Pro

From books to horror films named after the date all the way back to Bible references, Friday the 13th has long been accepted as a day that bad luck will come to town.

But why is this specific date considered unlucky, and when did this superstition begin? Is there any truth in our concerns over the date? We look at the history of the date, why it is deemed unlucky and which events have taken place on Friday the 13th.

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What is Friday the 13th?

The day occurs when the 13th day of the month in the Gregorian calendar falls on a Friday, which happens at least once every year but can occur up to three times in the same year. It has been seen as unlucky for centuries in the Western world.

It will occur twice in 2023, with today and Friday October 13.

Why is number 13 considered unlucky?

If three is the magic number, then 13 is most definitely seen as the most unlucky.

The term ‘unlucky 13’ has been feared since the middle ages after Christians associated it with the number of guests that sat around the dinner table at the last supper – the night before ‘Good Friday’ and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Judas Iscariot, one of the disciples of Jesus Christ, betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin in the Garden of Gethsemane by kissing him on the cheek and addressing him as "master" to reveal his identity in the darkness to the crowd who had come to arrest him. His name is also often used when someone is accused of betrayal or treason. Judas was the 13th guest to attend the dinner.

While there is some evidence of both Friday and the number 13 being considered unlucky, there is no record of the two being referenced to as specifically unlucky in conjunction before the 19th century.

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If we pair that with the fact there is no 13th rule in the Code of Hammurabi (one of the earliest written rule books written in the 18th century B.C) - the number was deemed to bring bad luck and even death or tragedy.

Why is Friday seen as an unlucky day?

The Christian belief that Jesus was killed on Good Friday appears to be the reason Friday is seen as unlucky.

There are also biblical references that are linked to fear, doom and tragedy. In the Bible, it states Eve handed Adam the poisoned apple on a Friday, while it was a Friday on which Cain murdered his brother, Abel.

In the United Kingdom, the morbid phrase Hangman’s Day was associated with Friday too, with it becoming the day prisoners were usually sentenced to death by hanging.

How long has Friday the 13th been known as unlucky?

For centuries, it has been an unwritten rule that due to the story of the Last Supper, people should not dine in groups of 13.

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Friday the 13th has been documented in the Western world, with a French character in the 1834 play Les Finesses des Gribouilles in which he proclaims, "I was born on a Friday, December 13th, 1813 from which come all of my misfortunes".

There is also an early documented reference in English as part of H. S. Edwards' biography of Gioachino Rossini, a man who died on a Friday 13th. It states "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."

Is Friday the 13th unlucky?

Many will believe it is, while others will classify it as a simple superstition. However, there are a number of tragedies and unfortunate events that have happened on Friday the 13th, such as:

- Popular artists and actor Tupac Shakur was shot dead in a drive-by shooting on September 7, he did live for a further six days but passed on Friday September 13, 1996.

- A Uruguayan Air Force plane crashed in the Andes in October, 1972 on Friday the 13th. While a total of 16 of the 45 passengers on board survived, they had to eat the dead passengers to stay alive. A film was later made, starring Kevin Bacon.

- On that same day, another flight crashed in Russia. The entire 164 passengers on board the flight and 10 crew members perished when the plane crashed while trying to land due to bad weather. It landed three miles away from the runway.

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- Buckingham Palace was bombed by Adolf Hitler’s army during World War 2, which killed one and completely destroyed the royal chapel on Friday 13 September 1940.

- On the same day in Bangladesh a cyclone devastatingly killed 300,000 people.

- Talk about unlucky, poor Welsh bus conductor Bob Renphrey had a run of luck that solidified Friday the 13th as the worst day ever for him in the 1990s. During that decade, on Friday the 13th specifically each time, he lost his job, crashed a motorbike, fell through a glass door and wrote off a total of four cars.

- When ISIS launched attacks on the French capital of Paris it was Friday 13 November 2015. 130 people were killed.

- Many in the United States cite Friday 13 March 2020 as the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

- A British 13-year-old boy was struck by lightning on Friday the 13th in 2020 at the time of 13:13. Unbelievable. The hospital stated he was expected to make a full recovery after suffering burns on his shoulder.

- The Costa Concordia sank into the ocean on Friday January 13 2012. It was reported to be the largest passenger ship ever wrecked, with almost double the number of people on the Titanic. It claimed a total of 32 lives and the captain was later convicted of manslaughter in 2015.