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The cultural origins of "Why is Friday the 13th unlucky?"

Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in Westernsuperstition. It occurs when the 13th day of the month in the Gregorian calendar falls on a Friday, which happens at least once every year but can occur up to three times in the same year.

While Friday the 13th may feel like a rare phenomenon, our Gregorian calendar means that the 13th of any month is slightly more likely to fall on a Friday than any other day of the week. It is not, however, a universal superstition: In Greece and Spanish-speaking countries, it is Tuesday the 13th that is considered a day of bad luck, while in Italy, it is Friday the 17th that is met with fear. From Scandinavia, Panati explains, the superstition then spread south throughout Europe, becoming well established along the Mediterranean by the start of the Christian era. It was here that the unsettling power of the numerals was cemented through the story of the Last Supper, which was attended by Jesus Christ and his disciples on Maundy Thursday. The 13th and most infamous guest to arrive, Judas Iscariot, was the disciple who betrayed Jesus, leading to his crucifixion on Good Friday. Hundreds of the Knights Templar were arrested on October 13, 1307, and many were later executed. Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" popularized the erroneous theory this is the original of the Friday the 13th superstition.

In Biblical tradition, the concept of unlucky Fridays, stretches back even further than the crucifixion: Friday is said to be the day that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge; the day Cain murdered his brother, Abel; the day the Temple of Solomon was toppled; and the day Noah's ark set sail in the Great Flood. It wasn't until the 19th century, however, that Friday 13th became synonymous with misfortune: As Steve Roud explains in "The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Britain and Ireland," the combination of Friday and the number 13 is a Victorian invention. In 1907, the publication of Thomas W. Lawson's popular novel "Friday, the Thirteenth" captured the imagination with its tale of an unscrupulous broker who took advantage of the superstitions around the date to deliberately crash the stock market. In the 1980s, superstition went pop with the launch of the "Friday the 13th" slasher franchise, starring hockey-masked killer Jason Voorhees.

Fast forward to the 1980s, and a hockey-masked killer by the name of Jason Voorhees in the slasher flick franchise "Friday the 13th" ensured notoriety. Then came Dan Brown's 2003 novel "The Da Vinci Code," which helped popularize the incorrect claim that the superstition originated with the arrests of hundreds of members of the Knights Templar on Friday,

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