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Tuesday the 13th

Thursday, Aug 15th, 2013

Two days ago was Tuesday the 13th. But we think it’s safe enough now to post a blog about it. Confused? If you’re not familiar with Greek, Latin American, or Spanish culture you might be surprised to learn that this day is a “Friday the 13th” day. In Spanish there is a popular saying, or refrán: Martes 13, ni te cases ni te embarques ni de tu casa te apartes (“On Tuesday the 13th, don’t get married, don’t begin a journey, and don’t leave your house”).  Just as the English term for Friday the 13th is Friggatriskaidekaphobia, there is also a name for the fear of Tuesday the 13thTrezidavomartiofobia.

The superstition surrounding the number 13 dates back to ancient times and is present across many cultures. It is said, although not in the Bible, that Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, was the thirteenth to sit down at the table during the Last Supper. The thirteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation presents us with the terrible beast, described as having “seven heads and ten horns.” In Norse mythology, dating back to the thirteenth century, Loki was the thirteenth god to arrive at the funeral of Balder, a god whose murder he was responsible for. In a deck of tarot cards, invented in the fifteenth century, the number 13 signifies death. And when the Brothers Grimm wrote their fairytales during the nineteenth century, “Sleeping Beauty” even identifies the wicked fairy as the thirteenth one to arrive at the celebration of the princess’s birth. The number 13 has always been bad luck.

But why Tuesday instead of Friday? Some people believe that the confusion wrought at the Tower of Babel occurred on a Tuesday the 13th. More importantly, historians date the fall of Constantinople to Tuesday, March 29, 1453. Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest city in Europe and arguably the most influential city in the world at the time, so the date of its demise would have been widely known. It served as the capital of the Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman empires at different points in time, and, similar to the Titanic, people thought that it could never fall. But fall it did and on a Tuesday. Tuesday is also associated with Mars, the Roman god of war. The word “Tuesday” is derived from Mars in many romance languages (Spanish: martes; French: mardi; Italian: martedi; Romanian: marţi; and Catalan: dimarts).

And just as Tuesday the 13th is a regular day for Americans, Friday the 13th is just another day for Greeks, Latin Americans, and Spaniards. Similarly, other cultures have their own versions of this superstition. For example, in Italy the day to be feared is Friday the 17th! Has anything bad ever happened to you on Tuesday (or Friday) the 13th? Or do you know of any superstitions from other cultures?

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