Friday the 13th

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Last Friday did you observe paraskevidekatriaphobia day? It's also called Friggatriskaidekaphobia.

That's another name for irrational fear of Friday the 13th.

That infamous day occurs once, at most three times a year. However, last year was an exception. There were nine Friday the 13ths in 2009. Most unusual occurence due to the way time is marked on the calendar.

It's a superstitious day, believed to bring bad luck.

Some people knock on wood, cross their fingers, refuse to walk under ladders and won't allow a black cat to cross their path.

Those are just a few instances of folklore passed on through oral traditions.

Some people won't work on Friday the 13th. Many wouldn't think of setting a wedding on the date. Some won't fly in an airplane, or buy a house or act on a hot stock market tip.

Others make sure there are more than 13 guests at a gathering because they consider 13 a bad omen.

In modern times, many observers point to the ill-fated Apollo 13.

Have you noticed that many airports skip the 13th gate? And most airplanes have no 13th aisle.

Hospitals and hotels regularly have no room number 13.

Eighty percent of high risers lack a 13th floor. Having a 13th floor is an ill omen.

Seventeen to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of Friday the 13th.

It's said that business is lost on this day because some people stay home and will not travel.

The earliest known documentation in English was in an 1869 biography of Italian Gioachino Rossini. He regarded Friday as an unlucky day, and 13 an unlucky number. Ironically, he died on Friday the 13th.

One theory about the origin of the unlucky day was that Jesus Christ was crucified on a Friday and that his betrayer, Judas Iscariot, was the 13th guest at Jesus' Last Supper.

In numerology, the number 12 is considered the number of completeness.

There are 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 Gods of Olympus, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles.

De Paus University's Underwood Dudley says no one really knows why Friday the 13th has spawned so many superstitions.

"You've got to have something that is unlucky and somehow they hit on 13," he says. "But all these explanations are just moonshine."

Well, maybe so, but Professor Dudley wasn't around the day I tried to heat a can of soup on a wood stove on a Friday the 13th. I sat the open can of soup on the hot wood stove and went about my business.

Suddenly the soup exploded and rained soup all over the floor, coffee table, and stone hearth.

That wasn't moonshine, Professor Dudley. That was vegetable soup.

Actually, I'm not superstitious. That incident was likely a coincidence.

When my husband was in the military, we rented a duplex apartment in a house owned by an Italian family. The family lived in the other side of the duplex. I became pregnant with my first child and the Italian family was most supportive. But they were extremely superstitious.

My landlady warned me on many occasions that I must be careful that I didn't deny myself any foods that I craved because if I didn't get those foods, my child would have a birthmark.

I didn't believe that, of course, but I never contradicted her. Her family was steeped in superstitions and I knew I couldn't change that.

My child was born without a birthmark, to her great relief.

I hope you had a nice day last Friday.

Mine was uneventful. No mishaps.

There's no need to fear any more Friday the 13ths this year.

There won't be any.