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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Friday, October 13, 2023

It’s Friday the 13th, in case you couldn’t tell from the calendar and also everyone else probably alerting you to the fact that it’s Friday the 13th. It’s one of those things that’s a thing simply because it’s a thing. Which makes about as much sense as that sentence.

But a thing is a thing, and you know we love things around here, so in honor of the day I am going to share thirteen cool things… about… well, luck and superstition. And things.

Buckle up!

One. Nobody really knows why thirteen is supposed to be unlucky. Much like nobody really knows anything. It is speculated that a few unlucky dinner guests started the trend. Loki was the 13th guest in Norse mythology and wrecked havoc with the party, causing the death of one of the gods. Judas was the 13th guest at the Last Supper and we all know how that turned out. Seems as good an explanation as any.

Two. As to how thirteen got mashed up with Fridays, it is speculated that had a religious origin, too. Even though it’s nowhere written, Adam and Eve allegedly ate the apple on Friday – the sixth day. Noah’s Ark has somehow been calculated to have set sail on a Friday the 13th, which may have been bad luck for the unicorns and everyone else, but seems like pretty good luck for Noah and the two-by-twos.

Three. There are two Friday the Thirteenths in 2023. One was in January, and one is today. True story: I actually tried to Google the date of January’s Friday the 13th until my brain processed the fact that the 13 is there for a reason.

Four. Every year has at least one Friday the 13th. Sometimes there are two. Far less frequently, a year will max out at three. The last year with three thirteenths was 2015. The next one is 2026. After that you’ve got to hang out all the way to 2037. I think making it that far still on this earth would actually be pretty good luck.

Five. I started keeping a journal at age thirteen, in a notebook with Garfield on the cover. Garfield’s 13th book was titled Food For Thought. Coincidence??

Six. There are ridiculous words for describing phobias. Fear of the number 13 is called triskaidekaphobia. Fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia. If you can pronounce those, it may not bring you good luck but it will almost certainly earn you a gold star.

Seven. Good luck spiders are true. Clearly mine got eaten by a stink bug or a bat, because tonight as I was frying potatoes, the lid came off the salt and a pile of it dumped out into the pan. Since I wasn’t in the mood for fried salt for dinner, I had to dump half-fried potatoes into a colander, wash them, dry them and refry them. If that ever catches on as a thing, I want full credit.

Eight. Eight is actually my lucky number. It’s the one my father won the big blue elephant on at Asbury Park. It sat in a corner of my bedroom as protector of all the other animals in my kingdom and occasionally served as “Horsie!” for my brother David when he was a toddler. I have that elephant to this day.

Nine. I read a stat on a reasonably reputable website that according to Otis, of elevator fame, 85% of panels omit the number thirteen. I can vouch for the fact that hotels actually skip the 13th floor. Clearly the entire floor vanishes into limbo and ceases to exist. Phew.

Ten. When I was 13 my favorite subject was science. It involved mixing a lot of things together and my teacher was quite fun. Science would have you believe that there is no luck, good or bad, associated with the number 13. But if you can vanish a whole floor, clearly there are some shenanigans going on.

Eleven. Any month starting on a Sunday has a Friday the 13th. There is a lot of math involved in how Friday the thirteenths land in any given year but math was absolutely never one of my favorite subjects. In other news, the Gregorian calendar repeats on a 400-year cycle. It also involves a lot of math so forget about me trying to explain it.

Twelve. Thirteen is considered a lucky number in Italy. But Friday the 17th, now that’s a problem. Turns out that the Roman numbers for 17 – XVII – can be rearranged to make VIXI, which means “I have lived”, or if you’re particularly Italian, “I’m dead.” Just like we leave the 13th floor out of our buildings, Italians leave the 17th row out of airplanes. It, too, completely ceases to exist so it can’t terrorize anyone. In other news, Tuesday the 13th is bad luck in Spain. And April 4th is bad luck in China. Consider it your homework to look it up and figure out why.

Fourteen. A baker’s dozen is thirteen delicious things and you aren’t going to get any better proof that thirteen is actually a lucky number.

Photo: my lucky elephant. And the highrise in the background definitely does NOT have a 13th floor.