Today marks what is considered the unluckiest day in Western superstition – Friday the 13th! This typically superstitious day occurs when the 13th day of the month in the Gregorian calendar falls on a Friday, and for hundreds of years many have speculated the origin of why the day is thought to be so ill-fated.
Although there is no definitive answer, it’s said that both Friday and the number 13 are separately considered to be unlucky, and the superstition is often said to have stemmed from Biblical times. Many Christians believe Friday to be unlucky as this was the day Jesus was said to be crucified in the New Testament. People are also suspicious of the number 13 as this was the number of disciples who attended the Last Supper, with Judas said to be the 13th member. It’s also believed that 13 owes its bad reputation to Loki, the Norse God of Evil, who started a riot when he crashed a banquet at Valhalla attended by twelve Gods. What a party pooper!
Although most people don’t take it too seriously, there are many who dread the date and avoid leaving the house at all costs on this particularly unfavourable day. The fear is so real to many people that there’s even a phobia dedicated to the fear of Friday 13th – ‘paraskevidekatriaphobia’ (imagine if you had a phobia of long words too?). The fear of things associated with the number thirteen is known as ‘triskaiedekaphobia’, which we recommend trying to say 13 times fast. To help ease the fear of Friday 13th, we’ve rounded up some of the most unusual superstitions and beliefs from across the globe to help you feel a little less alone next time you start waving at magpies and running away from black cats. Don’t worry, it’s not just you!
According to Harry Oliver, author of ‘Black Cats and Four Leaf Clovers’, the Turkish believe if you’re chewing gum at night in Turkey, you’re actually chewing on the flesh of the dead. So if you go on a date with a handsome man from Turkey you’d better stick to mouthwash, else he might think you’re a weird flesh-eating zombie.
Did you know that on New Year’s Eve in Spain, not everyone kisses as the clock strikes twelve? The superstitious eat twelve grapes at midnight to symbolize 12 months of good luck for the year ahead. Do twelve glasses of wine count since they’re technically grapes too..? We think yes.
The Greek have their own version of what to do when two people say the same thing at the same time (terribly unlucky, don’t you know). Whilst we would say ‘jinx’, they instead must say “Piase Kokkino”, which translates to ‘touch red’, and then touch something that’s red to avoid inevitable misfortune. Which would be great if you’re in Greece over Easter where you’ll find an abundance of red eggs throughout the country (they use them for a traditional Easter game!)
In China, the number four (pinyin sì) is considered incredibly unlucky because it sounds very similar to the Chinese word for ‘death’ (pinyin sǐ). If you ever find yourself in a Chinese block of flats, take a look at the floor numbers in the lift and any floor that ends in four will probably be missing. Some buildings even refuse to have a fourth floor, and one traffic management bureau in Beijing has actually stopped issuing car license plates that contain the dreaded number!
Russian culture is extremely superstitious, so if you’re planning on taking a trip there we suggest you read into a few before you go. You should never whistle when you’re inside someone’s home as it’s considered rude and said to bring bad luck, and you shouldn’t ever gift a happy couple a bunch of yellow flowers as they symbolise infidelity and are seen as a relationship curse. Make sure it’s an odd number of stems too – no dozen roses as that’s thought to be unlucky too! In fact, maybe just stick to a box of chocolates.
Particularly in South Korea, it’s believed that having a fan on in a closed room whilst sleeping will kill you. Also known as ‘Fan Death’, it’s such an accustomed belief that many electric fans in Korea come with auto-shutoff timers, just in case. We’ve got a feeling this superstition won’t ‘blow over’ any time soon.
Each year in Denmark, the Danish collect and save broken dishes specifically to throw at the houses of friends and family on New Year’s Eve. So it’s actually a good sign to find your doorway heaped with a pile of porcelain, as it means you’ll have loads of good fortune and lots of friends and good relationships throughout the year. In England it just means you’ve got really terrible neighbours.
Speaking of England, we’ve got our fair share of superstitions, from throwing salt over our shoulders to being extra careful when around mirrors so we can avoid those pesky 7 years of bad luck. But in Ancient Britain, many women carried acorns in their pockets to stay looking fresh and youthful. According to the ‘Encyclopaedia of Superstitions’, the oak tree was believed to provide longevity and helped ward of illnesses due to its long life. Who needs anti-ageing creams when you can just chuck a few acorns in your bag?
According to Icelandic tradition, you’re advised to avoid knitting on your doorstep during the later months as this is believed to bring about a long winter. Actually, maybe that’s where they went wrong on Game of Thrones…???
Last but not least, our personal favourite is this strange belief from Romania. It’s said that if you’re mean to animals you’ll have hairy babies. That’s right. Making fun of a cute little monkey may mean that you’ll give birth to a baby that resembles a little chimp. So you must always be nice to our furry friends, especially if you ever happen to find yourself pregnant in Romania.
So there you have it – some of the weirdest and wonderful superstitions from around the world! Thanks to us, now you can always stay lucky when you set off on your travels. Do you consider Friday the 13th to be unlucky? Do you have any strange superstitions to help you avoid bad luck? Comment and let us know!
By Steff Ellis, Social Media Executive