Bad luck and culture: the dreaded Friday the 13th

Bad luck and culture are inseparable. Superstitious people are on alert today: it’s Friday the 13th. In the Latin American world and elsewhere, they are lucky, it’s just another day because their cursed day is Tuesday the 13th.

Given the nature of the day, many people fear even leaving their home for what may happen. We’ll explain why this particular date is so different depending on the culture of origin and discuss some of the rituals. It’s effectively related to the cultural superstitions and tradition of different places and cultures.

Want to find out some facts about Friday the 13th and Tuesday the 13th? Keep reading and before you know it, you’ll be one of the superstitious Friday the 13th people too!


Bad luck and culture: the 13

Today you’ll hear a thousand jokes, even some people talking about everything that can happen to you as would happen in London or Paris on Friday the 13th. To consider these dates as cursed is a matter of bad luck and culture. Although the actual origin is unclear, here are some facts on the historical timeline of the unlucky number:

  • Hammurabi’s code of laws, one of the oldest collection of rules in history, skipped law number 13.
  • Judas, the most famous traitor ever, was considered the thirteenth member of the last supper, since there were 12 apostles plus Jesus Christ.
  • In the Jewish cabal there were 13 evil spirits, also in the Nordic legends. In the latter, it occurred that at a dinner of the gods (definitely an invite only!) Loki, the god of evil, was guest number 13.
  • Chapter 13 of Revelations is that of the Antichrist.


But why Tuesday and Friday the 13th?

Tuesday the 13th  is the day of bad luck in Spain, Greece and most of Latin America. But elsewhere it’s Friday the 13th.

What’s the reason for this? Basically, it’s a matter of cultural diversity, although in many cases it comes from the same traditions. Tuesday coincides with the day of bad luck in many cultures:

  • In Turkey the superstition recommends not starting a journey on this date for example.
  • Typhon, an enemy of the gods of ancient Greece, the god of volcanoes, was born on a Tuesday.
  • The etymology of his name is related to Mars, the Roman god of war and destruction.
  • James I of Aragon lost a historical battle on a Tuesday, and this also influenced it being considered a day of bad luck.
  • In Spain this belief has spread. Who hasn’t heard the saying “Tuesdays, don’t get married or go on a trip”?

Friday the 13th is linked to other events

Because Jesus Christ was supposedly crucified on a Friday, Friday the 13th is the date of bad luck in the Anglo-Saxon world and therefore, also in cinema and television.

It’s said that the day became popular after the novel Friday the thirteenth, by Thomas W. Lawson. In the book, a Wall Street broker uses the day to make a killing on the stock market by creating panic.

But Friday the 13th is not the only unlucky Friday, as for the Italians this day is Friday the 17th. Although it’s not very well known where this superstition came from. It’s believed that it came from Rome and that the Roman number XVII can be transformed into the word vixi, which in Latin means “I lived”, which implies that you’re no longer alive.


Knowing about superstitions is a sign of cultural sensitivity

Whether you believe them or not, some people take them very seriously. Therefore, it’s interesting to find out about the relationship between bad luck and culture in order to address other cultures and discover the different bad luck rituals along the way!

Respecting the beliefs of others gives us the edge when it comes to relationships, since they will warm to us easier.

Make sure to mark the next Tuesday the 13th, Friday the 13th and Friday the 17th on your calendars. And if you want to better understand cultural issues like these, go ahead and ask our cultural and linguistic advice team for some advice!

Need to adapt a text to make it culturally acceptable in other countries? Contact us!

About the author

Oscar Nogueras

Es el CEO de Ontranslation y dedica algunos ratos libres a escribir en este blog para compartir sus conocimientos sobre internacionalización, cross-border ecommerce y Traducción SEO. No es para menos, ya que entre su formación cuenta con una licenciatura en filología inglesa, un máster en tradumática, un posgrado en elearning y un MBA. En definitiva, una declaración de intenciones donde la cultura y los idiomas se sirven mezclados, no agitados.

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