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Friday the 13th

May 9, 2011

On Friday, May 13, 2011, an Anti-Superstition Bash will be held near Essington, Pennsylvania. The event is designed to help party attendees overcome many of their superstitions. The organizers want to end magical thinking.  Participants will enjoy Ladder Limbo, Horoscope Trashing, Open-Your-Umbrella Dances, and a Mirror Breaking Ceremony.

Why do some folks expect Friday the 13th to bring bad luck? The day combines two old superstitions, the fear of the number 13 and the fear of Fridays.

My father-in-law, Mr. Jack, who traveled frequently, refused to stay in a room on the 13th floor of a hotel.  Many hotels, apartment buildings, and office buildings don’t even have a 13th floor.

Most airlines skip thirteen when numbering aisles. Many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue. In Formula One racing, no car carries the number 13.

Triskaidekaphobia is the fear of the number 13, a malady that affects many of people. In an episode of the television series “Friends,” Ross believed that triskaidekaphobia was a fear of Triscuits, the Nabisco snack cracker.

Some people never begin a new project or embark on a trip on a Friday, fearing they will be doomed from the start.

Other superstitions about Friday abound. Never change your bed sheets on Friday because it will bring bad dreams. If you cut your nails on Friday, you will have misfortune.

In Rome, Friday was execution day. In Britain, Friday was the conventional day for public executions. 13 steps lead up to the hangman’s noose.

Both Friday and the number 13 have foreboding reputations. The conjunction of the two, Friday the 13th, portends added misfortune. It may be the most widespread superstition in the United States. Some people won’t go to work or eat in restaurants on Friday the 13th. Few would even dare to set a wedding on the date.

Dr. Donald Dossey, a psychotherapist and founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, coined the term paraskevidekatriaphobia, the fear of Friday the 13th.  According to Dossey, 21 million Americans are afflicted. Those folks will have a tough day next Friday.

The superstitions about Friday the 13th have more to do with personal experience than history.

If we believe the day is unlucky, supporting evidence isn’t hard to come by. If you have an automobile accident, lose your wallet, or spill your coffee next Friday, you might be tempted to blame it on the day. Look for bad luck on Friday the 13th, and you’ll probably find it.

You might decide to spend Friday the 13th in the safety of your own home with doors locked, shutters closed, and fingers crossed.

Who knows? You might break a mirror, walk under a ladder, spill salt, or spy a black cat crossing your path.

Might I suggest another option?

We might exclaim with the Psalmist, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!”  (Psalm 118:24)

Kirk H. Neely
© May 2011

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