Very little is known about the origins of the day’s notoriety. Some historians believe that the superstitions surrounding it arose in the late 19th century. The first documented mention of the day can be found in a biography of Italian composer Gioachino Rossini, who died on a Friday 13th. A 1907 book, Friday the Thirteenth, by American businessman Thomas Lawson, may have further perpetuated the superstition.
Others believe that the myth has Biblical origins. Jesus was crucified on a Friday and there were 13 guests at the Last Supper the night before his crucifixion.
Another account suggests that the day has been associated with misfortune since 1307, when on a Friday the 13th, the French king gave the orders to arrest hundreds of Knights Templar.
Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in Western superstition. It 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, for example in 2015, the 13th fell on a Friday in February, March, and November. In 2016, Friday the 13th occurred in May. In 2017, it occurred twice, in January and October. In 2018, it also occurred twice, in April and July. There will be two Friday the 13ths every year until 2020. The years 2021 and 2022 will have just one occurrence each.
A Friday the 13th occurs during any month that begins on a Sunday.
The irrational fear of the number 13 has been given a scientific name: “triskaidekaphobia”; and on analogy to this the fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning “thirteen”).
The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci The superstition surrounding this day may have arisen in the Middle Ages, “originating from the story of Jesus’ last supper and crucifixion” in which there were 13 individuals present in the Upper Room on the 13th of Nisan Maundy Thursday, the night before his death on Good Friday. While there is evidence of both Friday and the number 13 being considered unlucky, there is no record of the two items being referred to as especially unlucky in conjunction before the 19th century.
According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day, making it the most feared day and date in history. Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they avoid their normal routines in doing business, taking flights or even getting out of bed. “It’s been estimated that [US]$800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day”. Despite this, representatives for both Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines (the latter now merged into United Airlines) have stated that their airlines do not suffer from any noticeable drop in travel on those Fridays.
In Finland, a consortium of governmental and nongovernmental organizations led by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health promotes the National Accident Day (kansallinen tapaturmapäivä) to raise awareness about automotive safety, which always falls on a Friday the 13th. The event is coordinated by the Finnish Red Cross and has been held since 1995.
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