Friday, November 13, 2009

Lucky for some

My Friday the 13th musings in today's Herald...

Do you feel lucky today? If you're reading this at all, you're doing well. The sky hasn't fallen in, the world hasn't ended and you've managed to get out and buy the paper without walking into an open manhole. Hurrah!

In case you hadn't noticed, it's Friday the 13th -- and this year has been particularly tough for paraskavedekatriaphobics (those with a fear of Friday the 13th). This is our third one this year -- an unholy trinity that only occurs once a decade or so.

It's hard to know exactly when all the hysteria began. The number 13 has been thought unlucky for centuries, sometimes just because it wasn't the perfectly rounded number 12. The Norse believed that if 13 people sat down to dinner together, one would die.

As for Friday: well, that's been getting bad press in the Christian world since the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday. (Looks like the Norse were right about 13 people sitting down to supper together, after all). But it's only in the last century or so that the two have combined to give us Friday the 13th, a day that's launched a thousand horror movies.

The funny thing is, Friday the 13th is statistically not all that dangerous. A Dutch study last year found that fewer accidents occur on that date, and there are fewer reports of fire and thefts. Those Dutch are terribly sensible folk. That, or people are so nervous they make a bigger effort to keep themselves out of trouble that day.

In Greece, they think Tuesday the 13th is much more unlucky, so what happens if you're on holiday there today? Does that make you immune from 'the curse'?

Sometimes the biggest danger Friday the 13th brings is fear of the date itself.

In Asian culture the number 4 is considered unlucky and guess what? Research in the US found that more people of Chinese and Japanese heritage died of heart attacks on the fourth of the month than any other. I know none of this rational talk will stop people from randomly looking up today to check for pianos falling out of the sky.

So ask yourself this: What's the worst that can happen today that hasn't happened to us already?

Job losses, home foreclosures, endless rain, Jedward staying on X Factor. Who needs a special day for bad luck?

Forget the 13th bit --aren't Fridays nicer than Mondays? I reminded a friend what day it was. "Oh good!" she said, "I'm sure I'm going to win the Euromillions tonight."

Now that's the kind of attitude that's going to get this country off its knees.

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