Friday the 13th, also known as Black Friday

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Friday the 13th, is considered an unlucky day in Western superstition. It occurs when the 13th day of the month in the Gregorian calendar falls on a Friday. The superstition surrounding this day may have arisen in the Middle Ages, “originating from the story of Jesus’ last supper and crucifixion” in which there were 13 individuals present in the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday, the night before His death on Good Friday.[1][2] Other scholars claim that there is no written evidence for a “Friday the 13th” superstition before the 19th century, and the superstition only gained widespread distribution in the 20th century. The fear of the number 13 has been given a scientific name: “triskaidekaphobia“; and on analogy to this the fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning “thirteen”).  

History

While it is sometimes speculated that the superstition “arose in the Middle Ages”,[1][2] and there is evidence of both Friday[4] and the number 13 being considered unlucky, there is no record of the two items being referred to as especially unlucky in conjunction before the 19th century.[5][6][7]

An early documented reference in English occurs in Henry Sutherland Edwards‘ 1869 biography of Gioachino Rossini, who died on a Friday 13th:

He [Rossini] was surrounded to the last by admiring friends; and if it be true that, like so many Italians, he regarded Fridays as an unlucky day and thirteen as an unlucky number, it is remarkable that on Friday 13th of November he passed away.[8]

It is possible that the publication in 1907 of Thomas W. Lawson‘s popular novel Friday, the Thirteenth,[9] contributed to disseminating the superstition. In the novel, an unscrupulous broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th.[5]

The urban legend connecting the superstition with the date of Friday, 13 October 1307, when hundreds of the Knights Templar were arrested by King Philip IV, presumably dates to the later 20th century. It was popularized in Dan Brown‘s 2003 novel The Da Vinci Code and in John J. Robinson‘s 1989 work Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry, and also in the Maurice Druon historical novel series: “The Accursed Kings” (Les Rois Maudits).

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