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Do Non-US Countries Consider 13 to be an Unlucky Number Too?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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Most of the western world such as the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Europe has a history of considering 13 to be an unlucky number. The fear of 13 is called triskaidekaphobia. The association with thirteen and bad luck is thought to be tied to Christianity and The Last Supper.

Jesus Christ and his 12 followers sat at the dining table at The Last Supper, making a total of 13 people. One of the followers betrayed Jesus and the next day, a Friday, Jesus was crucified. Friday the 13th is considered to be an especially unlucky day. Some travelers still refuse to travel on that day. Some hotels were built without a thirteenth floor due to 13 being considered such an unlucky number.

Norse mythology also includes the idea that thirteen is an unlucky number of people at a dining table. Loki, god of evil, was the thirteenth guest at a table that was supposed to seat only 12 gods. Loki joined the table uninvited and was responsible for the accidental death of the god Baldur.

Although the ancient Romans thought that 13 was unlucky, they believed that 2 was even worse than 13. The ancient Romans associated thirteen with death, but two with Pluto, the god of the underworld. Pluto was thought to hold the second day of the second month of the year as a sacred day.

Most Asian countries do not consider 13 to be an unlucky number, but rather China, Japan, and Korea traditionally see the number 4 as being a very unlucky number. The sounds spoken to mean the number four are very similar to the sounds meaning "death." Marketing studies conducted in China found that product names and labels with the number 4 did not sell nearly as well as similar items with the number 8 on them instead. Eight is traditionally seen as the luckiest number in China.

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Discussion Comments
By burcidi — On Mar 23, 2011

There are cultures, especially ones that have a particular interest in astrology, numerology and numbers, that actually believe that 13 is lucky, not unlucky.

My Indian friend named her daughter on the 13th day after she was born because in Hinduism this is believed to be lucky. They had a ceremony at the temple on that day where the baby's name is written in rice and announced.

When I went to Italy, I actually saw necklaces with number 13 pendants. Italians believe that 13 is lucky also. So I think the belief that 13 is unlucky is mainly in America.

By fify — On Mar 22, 2011

My friend who lives in Southeast Asia had always referred to 13 as 12+1. He is not a Christian but he had the belief that 13 is unlucky for many years and I have known him since we were in college.

I went to see him a couple of years ago and actually heard him say 13! I asked him what happened and he told me about a series of happy incidents and events which had occurred on the 13th or had something to do with the number 13. His daughter was born on the 13th of May and he signed a huge business deal several months later on the 13th!

These events completely changed his mind about 13 but I think that the number 13 is considered unlucky more and more by people who don't have a Western or Christian background. I think it might have to do with globalization and global access to Western media.

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