Friday the 13th has long been considered an unlucky day in Western superstition. The day occurs when the 13th day of the month falls on a Friday. This happens at least once a year and sometimes up to three times in the same year.
Very little is known for sure about the origins of the day’s ill omens. Some historians say the superstition began in the late 19th century. The first documented mention of the day can be found in a biography of the Italian composer Rossini, who died on Friday the 13th.
Many reasons have been suggested for why 13 is considered so unlucky. One reason for the number 13’s bad luck comes from the Bible. Judas, who betrayed Jesus, is said to have been the 13th guest to arrive at the Last Supper the day before the crucifixion of Jesus on a Friday.
Another suggestion pinpoints 1307 when King Philip of France chose Friday 13th to arrest hundreds of Knights Templars who were later executed.
A link has also been proposed in Norse myth. 12 gods were invited to a banquet at Valhalla when the uninvited Loki, demi-god of mischief, turned up, bringing the total number of guests to13. He was held responsible for the chaos that led to the death of one of the good gods, Balder, and the world to be plunged into darkness.
In more recent times, a number of traumatic events have occurred on Friday the 13th, including the German bombing of Buckingham Palace in 1940; a cyclone that killed more than 300,000 people in Bangladesh in November 1970; the disappearance of a Chilean Air Force plane in the Andes in 1972; and the crash of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off the coast of Italy, killing 30 people in January 2012.
Even today, it is considered unlucky to have 13 people sitting at a dinner table. Some hotels refuse to list a room 13 and row 13 doesn’t exist on some planes. A lot of tall buildings have a 12th floor, then a 14th!
For whatever reason, Friday 13th continues to make its mark.