Most historians agree that the history of Friday the 13th as an unlucky day is a relatively short one, beginning sometime in the 19th century. The idea that Fridays are unlucky is older, as is the belief that 13 is an unlucky number. There are many legends and urban myths about the day, the number and the date. Here are some facts.
Antonio Rossini was an Italian composer famous for operas such as the Barber of Seville. His 19th century biographer, a British journalist named Henry Edwards, wrote that Rossini thought Fridays and the number 13 were unlucky. Rossini died on Friday, November 13th, 1868. Many folklorists cite Rossini’s biography as the first written reference to Friday the 13th as an unlucky day.
At the time, many Italians thought Fridays and the number thirteen were unlucky, according to Edwards. Today, Friday the 17th is considered bad luck in Italy. In many Spanish-speaking countries, the unlucky day is Tuesday the 13th.
In the Canterbury Tales, written in the 14th century, there is a reference to “unlucky Fridays”. The belief probably existed for hundreds of years prior, since Friday is believed to be the day of the week when Jesus Christ was crucified. Good Friday is a Christian holiday on which the crucifixion of Christ is observed.
Not all Christians share the belief that Fridays are bad luck. Scottish traditions hold that Fridays are the best for planting potatoes. Scottish Christians, especially the Roman Catholics, continue the tradition by planting potatoes on Good Friday, perhaps due to the resurrection symbolism of life coming from the seed-potatoes; life or rebirth will come after death.
The whole root of the superstitions surrounding the number 13 may come from a Norse myth originating during prehistoric times. The myth goes that 12 gods were celebrating and dining in Valhalla when in walked Loki, the Norse god of mischief. If you have seen the new movies about Thor, you know that Loki is not a very nice guy. According to the myth, Loki got the god of darkness to shoot Balder, the god of joy and gladness with a poisoned arrow, causing all of Earth to become dark as Balder died. Loki was the 13th guest, leading to the belief that 13 was a bad, unlucky number.
No one can really say whether Friday the 13th is an unlucky day or even if there is any such thing as bad luck. That being said, millions of people believe in the superstition and no one can really say they are wrong.