For prophets of doom, the failure of the world to end Dec. 21 may have been a bit of a letdown. Now, the calendar brings a new possibility for anxious obsession: a whole year ending in the unlucky number 13.
Thirteen has been associated with bad luck for centuries. Many people cite the Biblical Last Supper, where Jesus Christ gathered with his 12 disciples, as a reason for the stigma. In Norse mythology, the troublesome Loki is said to have spoiled a dinner in Valhalla by arriving as the 13th participant. There is even a word for the dread of those digits: triskaidekaphobia.
Any year that may begin with a fiscal cliff doesn’t sound very promising. Yet, because the past few years have been so distressing, many people figure 2013 can hardly be much worse. “My hope is that things are going to improve,” says Suzan Hollist, a substitute teacher in the Pittsburgh area whose son, Parker, was born on a Sept. 13.
Some fretful folks, of course, may have been so fixated on rumors that the world would end on Dec. 21, supposedly the end of the Mayan calendar, that they have only recently begun to stew over the implications of 2013.
There have been some precautions. The Times Square Museum & Visitor Center in New York recently displayed a collection of 13 good-luck charms, including a horseshoe, a four-leaf clover and a rabbit’s foot.