‘Paraskevidekatriaphobia,’ the scientific term given to describe the fear of “Friday the 13th,” will be in full force for the second time this year. (Hopefully, most of us survived unscathed from the unluckiness of the first Friday the 13th of 2020 back in March.)
There is at least one Friday the 13th in every calendar year, but there can be as many as three in a single year. The date occurs during any month that starts on a Sunday. When the year starts on a Thursday, Friday the 13th will fall in February, March and November. On a leap year that starts on a Sunday, Friday the 13th will fall on January, April and July. It is thought to be on a 28-year cycle.
The last time we had two Friday the 13ths: 2013, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
The last time we had three Friday the 13ths: 2012 and 2015.
The next time we’ll have two Friday the 13ths: 2023, 2024, and 2029.
The next time we’ll have three Friday the 13ths: 2026.
There are many theories on how Friday the 13th earned its reputation of being ‘unlucky’.
Some historians say the superstition originated from a Norse myth of 12 gods having a dinner party. An uninvited ’13th guest’ arrived and shot one of the gods, causing the entire Earth to go dark. That day was deemed a ‘bad’ and ‘unlucky’ day—as was the number 13.
There are also some roots of the superstition in Christianity, as the Last Supper consisted of Jesus and his twelve disciples the day before he was crucified (Good Friday). Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, is thought to have been the 13th guest to sit down to the dinner. Friday was also said to be the day Eve gave Adam the fateful apple from the Tree of Knowledge, as well as the day Cain killed his brother, Abel.
Behavioral studies have shown millions of people are affected by the fear of Friday the 13th and can often cause them to alter their normal or daily routine. Some superstitions or avoidances include:
- Traveling on an airplane
- Staying on the 13th floor of a hotel
- Getting a haircut (said to result in the death of a family member)
- Breaking a mirror (said to result in seven years of bad luck)
- 13 people at a dinner table (some sit a teddy bear in a chair as a ’14th guest’)
A study done in September 2019 shows most Americans said they are “not very superstitious” or “not at all superstitious”—with a small percentage (<10%) admitting to being “very superstitious.”
Unfortunate events on Friday the 13th
A number of tragic events have occurred on Friday the 13th, adding to the superstition surrounding the date:
- the German bombing of Buckingham Palace (September 1940)
- a cyclone that killed more than 300,000 people in Bangladesh (November 1970)
- the disappearance of a Chilean Air Force plane in the Andes (October 1972)
- the death of rapper Tupac Shakur (September 1996)
- the crash of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off the coast of Italy, which killed 30 people (January 2012)