The last Friday the 13th of the decade: Here's why it never fails to freak so many of us out every year

Associated with bad luck and superstition in popular culture, the fear of the day may have started in the 20th Century


                            The last Friday the 13th of the decade: Here's why it never fails to freak so many of us out every year

Every year we have at least one Friday the 13th, which is seemingly the most inauspicious day on the calendar. This Friday the 13th happens to be the last one of this decade, so we thought we'll take a look at why there's such a bad name associated with it.

Part of it can be traced to the number 13 itself. The number is feared by so many people that there is, in fact, a specific term for the phobia: triskaidekaphobia.

Where does that fear originate from? Many historians claim it stems from the Code of Hammurabi, a well preserved Babylonian code of law of ancient Mesopotamia, which reportedly left out the 13th law from its written legal codes. However, that turned to just be an error by one of the translators who omitted that line of text.

Another theory has to do with the Last Supper, where 13 Apostles sat at the table with Jesus. From the 1890s, a number of English language sources seemingly started relating the number with bad luck.

They stated that Judas, the Apostle who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th to sit at the table, though the Bible itself says nothing about the order in which they sat.

But then, why Friday and not any other day of the week? This mostly has to do with a combination of religious and cultural origins.

Religiously, it had mostly to do with Christians,  who considered the day to be an unlucky one because it was the day Jesus was crucified.

Culturally, it can be traced back to the 14th and 15th Centuries when prominent figures and writers started publicly denouncing the day.

Geoffrey Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales' said it was a "day of misfortune" and playwright Robert Greene coined the term "Friday face" to represent "a sad look of dismay or anguish".

So, when exactly did Friday and the number 13 come together to become synonymous with bad luck and superstition? While there is little historical evidence to pinpoint an exact year or date, most believe it started sometime in the 20th Century.

Some claim it has to do with Thomas W Lawson's 1907 book 'Friday, the Thirteenth', where a stockbroker chooses that particular day to crash the stock market.

A year later, in 1908, the New York Times publicly acknowledged the superstition surrounding the day, something that reached a zenith with the release of the 'Friday the 13th' movie franchise in the 1980s.

Is it good or bad? That depends entirely on how you view it.

A study published in the British Medical Journal in 1993 concluded that "the risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52 percent on the 13th," but admitted, "the numbers of admissions from accidents are too small to allow meaningful analysis".

In contrast, the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics said in 2008 that "fewer accidents and reports of fire and theft occur when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday than on other Fridays because people are preventatively more careful or just stay home".

It also said, statistically speaking, that driving is "slightly safer" on the day in the Netherlands. It pointed out that on an average, Dutch insurers received reports of an average of 7,800 traffic accidents each Friday, but on Friday the 13th, that figure dropped to 7,500.

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