Cultural Etiquette and International Protocol

The Mysterious Number 13

by Gloria Petersen
It is the year of the number 13.  For some this is considered “unlucky,” and for others it is “lucky.” The number 13 has many meanings and interpretations in different religions and cultures around the world. It is what you want it to be.

Why has the number 13 evolved as unlucky?
When is the number 13 lucky?
Why does it seem to hold so much mystery?

There are many connections with bad luck associated with the number 13, including the following:

  • Superstition has deemed the number 13 to be so unlucky that some buildings do not show a 13th floor option on the elevator. (The 13th floor is actually given the number 14.)
  • The Last Supper had thirteen disciples, one of whom would betray Jesus.
  • Apollo 13 was the only unsuccessful Apollo moon mission by the United States’ NASA program.
  • The number 12 is often considered to connote completeness, which puts the number 13 out of balance.

You can visit several Internet sites and learn lots of reasons why the number 13 has evolved as unlucky; however, let’s focus on the positive aspects of the number 13 since this is 2013.

The lucky (or nonthreatening) side of the number 13:

  • In many cultures the number 13 is “lucky.” For example, in Judaism, thirteen is the age at which a boy reaches the age of Bar Mitzvah.
  • Our original 13 colonies are represented in 13 stripes on the American flag.
  • The Great Seal of the United States has 13 stars in the constellation over the eagle’s head, 13 stripes in the shield on the eagle’s breast, and 13 arrows held in the eagle’s left talon.
  • From a historical, numerological perspective, the number 13 has had many good or “lucky” connotations. It was considered a number that cleaned and purified; for early Christians it was a number combination that represented the Holy Trinity (one God, three persons: 1 + 3); for the Aztecs there were 13 skies; to name a few.

If your birthday falls on the 13th of the month (even if it is Friday the 13th), 2013 could be “your” luckiest year. My birthday does fall on the 13th of the month, and it has never been an unlucky day. In fact, my sixteenth birthday party was on Friday the 13th and it was a blast. Or, perhaps you graduated, got married, or opened a business on Friday the 13th. That alone deems it a lucky day.

In all reality, the number thirteen is neither lucky nor unlucky—it is all about perception. Again, it is what you want it to be for you. First, however, you have to remove the unlucky myths from your mindset.

We at Global Protocol are going to focus on making this “year of the number 13” our luckiest and most prosperous year ever. I am excited about our prospects for 2013, and I will recap for you our stories of success on December 31, 2013.

In the meantime, share your favorite lucky 13 stories from folklore, history, or your cultural background.

─Gloria Petersen


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