The Original “Black Friday”

The first two weeks of November were jammed with “un-often” events this year.  For starters the bright light of Halloween’s blue moon spilled into the wee hours of November 1st.  During those same wee hours most of us lost Daylight Savings Time.  The very next day (Monday) marked the official arrival of Hurricane Eta to our shores. The day after that we voted in a presidential election. A week later we staged the Masters golf tournament (it’s supposed to be in April, people).  Then we had another hurricane (Iota), the first time we’ve had two in November.  Finally, we spiked positive COVID-19 tests in record numbers after months of declines.

That’s a pile of rarities in a short amount of time.  So why not add one more to the heap?  Friday the 13th.  I missed it completely.  Maybe you missed it too (and you’d be forgiven with all those other distractions).  Last Friday – the 13th – came and went without an ounce of bad luck to blog about.  Ironically, the only story I can share brought good luck.  I placed a carry-out dinner order last Thursday night and the restaurant gave me someone else’s food.  When I went back for the right order they told me to keep both.  As a result my Friday the 13th dinner was unexpectedly “on the house”.

Are you superstitious?  I’m not – not in the least.  I have no problems with sidewalk cracks, leaning ladders, or black cats. I don’t lose sleep anticipating the third occurrence of a bad thing.  I gladly pick up a penny (it’s free money after all) but with no expectations of luck.  I’ve broken mirrors (deliberately, in remodel projects) and wishbones (on a whim, in turkeys).  I’ve even knocked on lots of wood (mostly doors) but hey, my life goes on as usual.

Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece

As for Friday the 13th’s “un-luck”, its long-ago origins are suspiciously weak.  The most common comes from the story of Jesus in the Bible: thirteen individuals at the Last Supper (Thursday) followed by Jesus’ foretold crucifixion the following day.  Other theories point to fighting gods in mythology and fighting knights in the Middle Ages.  None of these carry water in my book.  Seriously, how did misfortune come to be associated with the collision of a particular day and date?

I read up on calendar averages, thinking the 13th falling on a Friday was as uncommon as a blue moon.  Maybe the 13th favors the other days of the week instead?  Nope, try the reverse.  Over a significant number of years the 13th falls on Friday more than Saturday, Sunday, or any other day of the week.

To add a helping of confusion, look no further than Spain or Greece.  These countries have an irrational fear of Tuesday the 13th.  Italy?  Friday the 17th.  Imagine watching America’s famous horror movie franchise in any of these places and wondering, “so… why do they call it ‘Friday the 13th'”?

No matter my efforts to undermine this superstition, the effects are real.  Over 17 million Americans admit to a dread of Friday the 13th.  Some avoid airplane travel and others won’t even get out of bed.  Buildings remove the thirteenth floor from the stack (which is a lot of demolition for a superstition, isn’t it?)  Elevators conspicuously delete the “13” button.  Numbered seats in stadiums go 10, 11, 12… 14, 15, 16.

For some of you, Black Friday means bargains.  For others, Black Friday means “13”. If nothing else, I’ll give you a couple of words to describe the circumstance of the latter’s irrational fear.  If you’re afraid of the number 13 you have triskaidekaphobia.  If you’re afraid of just Friday the 13th you have paraskevidekatriaphobia.  (Me, I only have acrophobia.  At least your phobias sound more sophisticated.)

Fact check.  This post was published close to the midpoint between Black Friday (the 13th) and Black Friday (the retail binge).  Okay-y-y-y.  This post also contains exactly 666 words.  WHOO boy.

Let me repeat… I am NOT superstitious.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Author: Dave

Three hundred posts would suggest I have something to say… This blog was born from a desire to elevate the English language, highlighting eloquent words from days gone by. The stories I share are snippets of life itself, and each comes with a bonus: a dusted-off word I hope you’ll go on to use more often. Read “Deutschland-ish Improvements” to learn about my backyard European wish list. Try “Slush Fun” for the throwback years of the 7-Eleven convenience store. Or drink in "Iced Coffee" to discover the plight of the rural French cafe. On the lighter side, read "Late Night Racquet Sports" for my adventures with our latest moth invasion. As Walt Whitman said, “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Here then, my verse. Welcome to Life In A Word.

12 thoughts on “The Original “Black Friday””

  1. You’re right about black cats etc. but one must never confuse scientific fact with superstition. For example, you should never offer a toast in water it displeases the Gods and they will rain hell on you for it. But, like you, I’m not superstitious. cheers

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting fact: the original Friday the 13th movie was released on May 9, 1980. It wasn’t until the third film that one was released on the 13th. And I’m still waiting for the seven years of bad luck for breaking that mirror when I was 11.

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  3. Dave – I learned a lot of facts and figures here and learned a new word: “acrophobia” which I had to Google. Back in 1974 or 1975 I worked on the college newspaper and our teacher/advisor took us on a tour of “The Detroit News” brand-new, state-of-the-art printing facility. It looked like a medical institution where the young doctors watch the senior doctors perform surgery from the glassed-in gallery. We could go to a high platform and look at the printing presses and our guide for the tour told us “the optimum experience” was going on the ramp up to the very top. We were all game but one classmate who said she was afraid of heights. The guide kind of scoffed at her, and the rest of us, who hung out together when we were not in class or working in the newspaper office, were shocked to learn this about our friend. We said “oh Claudia – you have to come up with us to the top.” So she jollied along, no doubt thinking “how bad could it be anyway?” Luckily they had guard rails as she climbed to the top and looked down, got queasy, her knees buckled and down she went in a heap. Not fun when 911 was called and she was put on a stretcher to go back down the ramp.

    You have acrophobia – I have arachnophobia – I become a real “Nervous Nellie” when I see a spider, especially inside the house. I’m not too keen on centipedes either … I dislike bugs that run faster than I do.

    On Election Day, scientists predicted an asteroid heading toward Earth was the size of a bus and might strike something or someone, then on Friday the 13th, there was still another asteroid close encounter fear, with this one the size of a house, just 239 miles from Earth. We had a meteor strike and an earthquake here in Michigan in early 2018 and another earthquake this August … I figured our “things-happen-in-threes karma” was done. 🙂

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  4. Acrophobia is no laughing matter and I identify with your college friend’s incident. I cannot stand anywhere near the edge of a cliff. I struggle with long staircases where the risers are open. And I don’t do well with Ferris Wheels because unlike rollercoasters you’re not strapped in tight. There’s an overwhelming sense of the worst that could happen and that’s when vertigo sets in. No fun 😦


  5. I never liked heights but my fear worsened after 911 – the visuals. Now I never stay higher than the 6th floor of a hotel room, and prefer a one level Courtyard by Marriott. I wondered where that old superstition you should never have 13 people at table, or someone will die in the next year came from, but it’s probably the Last Supper. I’m not generally superstitious about black cats, or walking under a ladder etc, but in my hospital job, I did observe that deaths often came in 3’s .

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  6. I can’t say that I love heights either, though I have no trouble walking around the perimeter of my roof with a leaf blower strapped on my back.

    I can’t say I pay that much attention to black cats, Friday 13th and such. I did break a mirror in a house move about 25+ years ago. I either had no bad luck as a result or bad luck that has never stopped since – how do you tell which?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Every year with the Christmas lights (like this past weekend), I’m reminded why I only decorate the trees in the yard instead of the eaves of the house. I fell off a ladder as I was hanging a string of lights above our garage many years ago. Landed hard on the concrete driveway on my rear (thank goodness). I took that warning and never looked back. Anything I need to have done above the gutter line gets a call to a professional.


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