Happy Paraskevidekatria Day—Boo!

12th September 2019

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Yes, it's Friday the 13th, folks, and there is actually a traditional word for it. Paraskevidekatria comes from the Greek language, where 'paraskevi' means Friday and 'dekatria' means the number 13. The superstitions connected with this day are largely associated with Western culture, but thanks to the popular culture surrounding the number 13 itself, as well as Friday the 13th, it's seemingly almost a globally acknowledged tradition of sorts. In fact, the fear of the number 13 has its own medical name: paraskevidekatriaphobia; similarly, the intense and irrational fear of the number 13 is known as triskaidekaphobia.

It's believed that the word "paraskevidekatriaphobia" was devised by Dr Donald Dossey, who told his patients that "when you learn to pronounce it, you're cured!"

An observation made by ANU academic Dr Jane Ferguson in her paper titled, Terminally haunted: Aviation ghosts, hybrid Buddhist practices, and disaster aversion strategies amongst airport workers in Myanmar and Thailand, is that some flight attendants would plan their flight schedules to avoid working on Friday the 13th. Interestingly, every culture has its own set of lucky and unlucky days and associations. For instance, as ANU's Associate Professor of Anthropology, Matt Tomlinson cites, in Latin American culture, it's Tuesday the 13th that's considered unlucky instead.

Are you paraskevidekatriaphobic or triskaidekaphobic? Do you believe Friday the 13th is unlucky or ominous? Or do you have or know of any other phobia or superstition stemming from another culture or country? We would love to hear about different superstitions from across cultures and share it with our readers, so please do write in to us with your insights.

For now, keep calm and enjoy Friday the 13th…as well as these 13 fascinating facts about the day!

  1. There is no certain origin of the superstition of Friday the 13th. Some believe it originated from a book by the same title, published in 1907; others link it to biblical origins, specifically the Last Supper, at which 13 guests were present. The 13th was Judas, the infamous betrayer of Jesus.

  2. The fear of Friday the 13th is also called friggatriskaidekaphobia, named for Frigga, the Norse goddess after whom Friday is named.

  3. In a given year, Friday the 13th cannot appear more than thrice. In 2019, there are two Fridays that fall on a 13th—13 September and 13 December.

  4. It is said that Mark Twain was once the 13th guest at a party. A friend warned him not to go. Twain later told his friend that “It was bad luck. They only had food for 12.”

  5. Alfred Hitchcock was born on a Friday the 13th (Friday, 13 August 1899).

  6. Since 1995, Finland has dedicated one Friday the 13th each year to observe National Accident Day. The day is dedicated to raising awareness about safety on the roads, at home, and at the workplace.

  7. In Italy, Friday the 17th is traditionally feared.

  8. Apparently, on Friday, 13 April 2029, an asteroid named Asteroid 2004 MN4 will make the closest-ever encounter with Earth.

  9. The blockbuster Hollywood movie Friday the 13th has 12 sequels and also a TV series.

  10. Ironically, horror writer Stephen King apparently has triskaidekaphobia.

  11. The famous Hollywood sign was unveiled on Friday the 13th in 1923.

  12. In many parts of the world, hotels, hospitals and apartments deliberately do not have a 13th floor.

  13. Horror writer William Peter Blatty, who wrote The Exorcist, also died on a Friday the 13th (13 January 2017).

Tags: Culture

Updated:  7 July 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, Culture, History & Language/Page Contact:  CHL webmaster