Friday the 13th has long been associated with bad luck. In 2023, the final Friday the 13th of the year lands in October, making the superstitious holiday all the more eerie. Whether it’s the ghost decor lining the sidewalks or the urban legends we share on repeat, this time of year is undeniably mysterious. With Friday the 13th only a few weeks away, we dug into the origins and meaning behind the day.
In addition to a rich history, Friday the 13th comes with a well-established set of superstitions: don’t walk under a ladder; don’t break any mirrors; don’t open your umbrella inside; don’t cross paths with a black cat; and remember that bad luck comes in threes. These common superstitions are intensified on Friday the 13th. While each individual allegory has its own origins and reason for being unlucky, the long-standing superstitions surrounding the holiday likely play a bigger role in the trepidation we may experience on Friday the 13th.
Ahead, read more about the origins of Friday the 13th, common superstitions, and why it might not be so unlucky after all.
Why Is Friday the 13th Unlucky?
Though the exact origins of Friday the 13th are unknown, certain cultures throughout history have considered the date unlucky for various reasons. In Christianity, Friday is said to be the day Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, the day Cain murdered his brother, Abel, the day Jesus died, and the day Noah’s ark set sail in the Great Flood. Additionally, Judas was the 13th guest at the Last Supper and the disciple most remembered for betraying Jesus Christ.
In Norse mythology, it’s said Loki, the god of mischief, crashed a banquet in Valhalla, per Encyclopedia Britannica. His presence brought the number of gods in attendance to 13. Later in the evening, Loki deceived the blind god, Hodr, causing him to miscount the number of gods in attendance and shoot his own brother, Balder.
It wasn’t until the 19th century when Thomas W. Lawson released his novel “Friday the Thirteenth,” however, that the date became a widespread herald of misfortune. The book tells the story of a morally corrupt stockbroker who uses the superstitions surrounding the holiday to crash the stock market, per CNN.
Is Friday the 13th Good Luck?
Given all of the negative connotations with Friday the 13th, it’s fair to think the holiday carries an air of bad luck around it. For many, however, the holiday is thought to be a harbinger of good fortune. In fact, in Norse mythology, Friday — which means “day of Frigg” — is named after the queen of Asgard Frigg, or Frigga, who is the goddess of motherhood. In addition to shepherding people through love and marriage, Frigg is said to have protected families, homes, and the fate of entire communities, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. She was also closely associated with Freyja, the goddess of love, fertility, and war. According to legend, Freyja could see the future, could predict deaths, and often rode in a chariot pulled by two black cats, making the four-legged friends luckier than many may have originally believed.
In Greek and Hispanic cultures, some consider Tuesday the 13th an unlucky date as Tuesday is thought to be dominated by Ares, god of war, in Greek mythology, according to Euronews. In Italy, Friday the 17th is generally considered unlucky as the Roman numerals for 17 can spell out “I have lived” in Latin, implying someone’s life is over and they have died, according to The Independent. Meanwhile, the number 13 is regarded as a good omen.
Similarly, in pagan times, the number 13 was long considered a fortunate number for its ties to fertility and the number of lunar and menstrual cycles in a calendar year. While old adages will tell us to knock on wood, sleep facing south, or even wear our clothes inside out all day to bring about good luck on Friday the 13th, it seems the holiday might be inherently good after all.
When Is the Next Friday the 13th?
As a rule, a month has a Friday the 13th only if that month begins on a Sunday. In 2023, there are two: in January and then, of course, October. Considering the supernatural ties that many associate with the holiday, the fact that Friday, Oct. 13, falls in the same month as Halloween makes both festivities extra special this year. In fact, Oct. 13, 2023, will be the last Friday the 13th that takes place in October until 2028. Following that, the next Friday the 13th of October will be in 2034, then 2045, and 2051. In 2024, there will be two Fridays the 13th: Sept. 13 and Dec. 13.
Of course, it’s also important to remember that, given the layout of the Gregorian calendar, the 13th of the month is slightly more likely to fall on a Friday than any other day of the week, making Friday the 13th more of a coincidence than a phenomenon. Still, considering a Friday the 13th in October only seems to happen once in a blue moon, we’ll be making it extra special this year.