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Unlucky Friday 13? Not a problem in Catalonia

Catalans have nothing to fear from the unluckiest day of the year, although Tuesday 13 is quite another matter

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13 December 2019 11:50 AM

by

Neil Stokes | Barcelona

Friday 13 is the unluckiest day of the year in many places around the world, but before you reach for your rabbit's foot and start making the sign of the cross, if you're in Catalonia you should be quite safe from any impending misfortune.

A year never goes by without at least one Friday 13, traditionally bringing with it a day full of bad luck. But that is an Anglo superstition, while in Hispanic cultures - including in Catalonia - the day to stay in bed and hide under the covers is Tuesday 13.

Leaving aside for a moment why one culture should be wary of Tuesdays and another Fridays, what the two superstitions have in common is a general aversion to the number 13, which is considered an unlucky number in most western traditions.

As is always the case with these things, getting a straight answer is never easy, and the same goes for why the number 13 might be considered unlucky, with a variety of competing theories claiming to provide the answer.

Unlucky number 13

One of the most common explanations is that there were 13 people at the Last Supper - Jesus Christ along with his 12 disciples - with the 13th guest to sit at the table being Judas Iscariot, who went on to betray his master with a kiss.

There is a similar tale in Norse mythology, in which 13 guests are invited to dinner in the legendary drinking hall of Valhalla, with the Viking god of mischief and chaos, Loki, being the 13th guest to arrive.

The number 13 was also a bit of a headache for astronomers. In the Mayan calendar it was one of the cycles that presaged apocalyptic events, while monks simply hated years that had 13 full moons because it disrupted the planning of religious festivals.

Nor did ancient cultures have much time for 13 full moons in a year, which were seen as an anomaly. They figured that it was all the fault of women and their 13 menstrual cycles a year, when everyone knows that the solar calendar was best. 

Whatever, the reason for the association of 13 with bad luck, the western world at least is taking no chances, and it is not unusual to find the number omitted from floor and door numbers in hotels, or even aisle numbers on aircraft.

Tuesday, the day of "bad omen"

As for why Tuesday 13 is unlucky in places like Catalonia, a reason is that Tuesdays were seen as being under the influence of Mars, the war god. Bringer of death and destruction, Mars is the origin of the word for Tuesday in Catalan, 'dimarts' (or 'martes' in Spanish).

Meanwhile, Tuesday April 13 1204 was certainly an unlucky day for the city of Constantinople, which was was sacked by crusaders on that date, while the eastern capital of the former Roman Empire fell to the Ottomans also on a Tuesday, in May 1453.

Another historical association with unlucky Tuesday is to be found in Juan de Mariana's history of Spain, in which he points out that King Jaume I, whose territory included what is today Catalonia, died on a Tuesday, making that day one of "bad omen and ill-fated."

Whether any of these theories are actually true, and whether either Friday 13 or Tuesday 13 are really unlucky, one thing for sure is that they are unavoidable. Catalans may have escaped this Friday 13, but the next Tuesday 13 is lying in wait, next October.

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  • A black cat with two different coloured eyes (by Chris Yarzab, flickr)

  • A black cat with two different coloured eyes (by Chris Yarzab, flickr)

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