Everyday is a holiday: Celebrating Friday the 13th

Kelley Holland

Black cats, broken mirrors and walking under ladders: These are just a few widely-known symbols of bad luck. Another one is the number 13, so Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day. But where does this idea stem from? 

Western cultures have had a tendency to associate the number 12 with completeness. For example, 12 months of the year, 12 days of Christmas, and 12 zodiac signs.

If you look at most buildings or elevators today, they typically avoid marking the 13th floor. However, the fear of 13 dates back centuries and has been believed to stem from the Code of Hammurabi, one of the first written legal codes. A 13th law was omitted from the legal rules, and though it was likely through clerical error, many suggest the number had a negative connotation even back then. 


Additionally, some suggest it could stem from the biblical tradition of the Last Supper, where 13 people (Jesus and his 12 Apostles) gathered, and Jesus was crucified the next day. This could also be why the unlucky “holiday” is on a Friday, since Jesus was crucified on what is now known to Christians as Good Friday. 

George Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” depicted Friday as “a day of misfortune,” and playwright Robert Greene used the term “Friday-face,” defining it as “a sad look of dismay or anguish.” 

Whatever the reason may be, fear of the number 13 is so prominent that it has even earned its own psychological term: triskaidekaphobia. 

In pop culture, a novel titled “Friday, the Thirteenth” was written by Thomas William Lawson in 1907. The book depicts a New York stockbroker who creates chaos on Wall Street on Friday the 13th. 

Perhaps the most familiar reference in pop culture is the horror movie series entitled Friday the 13th, first released in 1980. The movies center on a hockey mask wearing killer named Jason, and you’re bound to see plenty of Halloween costumes and memorabilia involving the character.

Whether you’re superstitious or just a little stitious, know that there will only be one more Friday the 13th this year, coming in November.

Features reporter Kelley Holland can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]