How Christianity and books launched Friday the 13th

Are you hunkering down in your home today, worried that bad luck might befall you? Don’t feel alone, one in four Americans say they’re superstitious.

How did Friday the 13th become the spookiest calendar date? Early Christians were the first to acknowledge Friday as an unlucky day. After all, Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Later, Christians dubbed the day as Good Friday in acknowledgement of Jesus’ great sacrifice.

But the unlucky day moniker stuck. Around 1400, Geoffrey Chaucer depicts Friday to be a “day of misfortune” in The Canterbury Tales. Robert Greene used “Friday face,” meaning a serious or gloomy face or expression, in Groats-worth of Wit, a play published in 1592. Today, most people welcome Friday, except when associated with the 13th.

Why is the number 13 considered unlucky? Many believe the superstition originates from the Code of Hammurabi, a collection of 282 rules that dates back to 1754 BC. A translator accidentally left out the13th law.

The modern fear of Friday the 13th started in 1907 with the publication of Thomas Lawson’s book, Friday the Thirteenth. The main character, a stockbroker, chooses that day to deliberately crash the stock market. In the 1980s, the Friday the 13th movie franchise ramped up the hysteria.

As for me, today will be just like any other day. I’ll step on cracks and play with black cats. I may even walk under a ladder or two. How about you?

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid: do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
— Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

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