Friday, April 13, 2018

This Day Is Numbered

It's Friday the 13th.  There are a lot of superstitions, and the idea that this day is bad luck is one of the dumbest.

It's not clear when the superstition started, though it's been around for centuries.  Of course, other cultures believe other days and other numbers of unlucky.

I wonder if anyone has ever figured out any reasonable metric for figuring how unlucky any random day is. Maybe you could play poker on that day and see how well you do (versus other days).  Of course, your bad luck there could be someone else's good luck.

Anyway, I have no doubt if they did some correct measure, Friday the 13th would be no different luck-wise from any other day.  (In fact, Fridays are usually pretty good days.) I suppose it's possible you could have a self-fulfilling prophecy, but more likely that means people notice unlucky things on the day, not that there is less luck.

So enjoy your day, and don't even think about bad luck.  In fact, pretend you never read this.


Anonymous Lawrence King said...

Actually, there is no evidence of Friday the 13th being considered unlucky prior to the 19th century (i.e., the 1800s).

There's an ancient Christian superstition that it's unlucky to have thirteen people at a table. My grandmother avoided seating thirteen at a table. This superstition, of course, arose because Jesus was betrayed after the Last Supper, at which there were thirteen.

Meanwhile, Friday derived its significance from the Judeo-Christian seven-day week. In Judaism, of course, Saturday is the day of worship and rest. Christianity shifted the day of worship to Sunday to honor Christ's resurrection (as attested even in the New Testament), and shifted the day of rest to Sunday as well (although this may have taken longer -- historical records are unclear on this). Friday, the day of the Crucifixion, was a day of fasting by the end of the first century.

But the two weren't combined until the nineteenth century. In fact, we can see part of the process in a English biography written in 1869 of the Italian composer Rossini:

If it be true that, like so many Italians, he [Rossini] regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday 13th of November he passed away.

Notice that the author recognizes both the 13 superstition and the Friday superstition, and then points out that they both apply in this case. This sentence could not have been written if the author had ever heard of a superstition specific to the Friday 13th combination.

Finally, you wrote:

Anyway, I have no doubt if they did some correct measure, Friday the 13th would be no different luck-wise from any other day. (In fact, Fridays are usually pretty good days.)

I think your two claims contradict each other. Of course, if you were to survey "luck" in some objective way, compensating for input, then I agree we would find no correlation to the day of the week or the day of the month. But if we don't compensate for input, then we'd find huge variances. Just to take one example: I am quite certain that the frequency of automobile accidents is greater on Monday than on Sunday! Can you tell me why?

10:49 PM, April 13, 2018  

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