Richard Swerdlow: Friday the 13th

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 (Richard Swerdlow)

For all the superstitious out there today is not a day to take lightly. Richard Swerdlow has this Perspective.

TGIF! You made it through another week and the weekend is almost here. But before you get too fired up about Friday, let me point out today is Friday the Thirteenth.

Superstitious or not, nearly everyone knows Friday the 13th is supposed to bring bad luck. This day has been considered unlucky for centuries. Some theories are biblical - 13 guests at the last Supper before Friday's crucifixion. And the Code of Hammurabi from Babylon, one of the earliest legal texts, mysteriously omitted number 13 from a list of 282 laws. Another theory points to a medieval massacre on Friday the 13th. Whatever the reason, a poll found Friday the 13th, along with black cats, breaking a mirror, and walking under a ladder is thought to bring bad luck by about one in four Americans.

And they are not subtle about it. Paraskevidekatriaphobia (fear of Friday the 13th) has a real effect. Airlines report fewer reservations for flights on Fridays the 13th, casinos note decreased attendance, weddings are rarely planned and plenty of people find a reason to reschedule any business deals or surgeries on this day.

Experts say superstitions are not harmful, unless you’re so paralyzed you can't get out of bed. Some say superstitions are actually beneficial, providing a sense of control over life's uncontrollable happenings. Athletes often have good luck rituals before events, and most cultures recognize some kind of good luck omen.


If you're freaked by Friday the 13th, your bad luck could be worse. Some years have up to three Fridays the 13th, but today is the only one occurring in 2021, hopefully the universe telling us this year has brought enough bad luck already, and maybe we're done.

So, pack your rabbit's foot, your lucky penny, your horseshoe and a four-leaf clover and get on with your day. Just don't walk under any ladders. No sense tempting fate.

With a Perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.

Richard Swerdlow teaches in the San Francisco Unified School District.