What are we in for in 2013: Super superstition?

Superstition: Are people apprehensive about 2013?

December 31, 2012
Faithful carry a small-scaled boat filled with flowers into the waters of Copacabana beach as an offering for Yemanja, goddess of the sea, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday. On New Year’s Eve, Brazilian worshippers of Yemanja celebrate the deity, offering flowers and launching boats, large and small, into the ocean in exchange for blessings in the coming year. The belief in the goddess comes from the African Yoruban religion brought to America by West African slaves. - Associated Press

Because you’re reading this after Dec. 21, it means the world didn’t end in a Mayan or other apocalypse. So we have a lot to look forward to, eh?

It’s 2013!

Questions about how Washingtonians felt about the approach of 2013 yielded not a single person who admitted to apprehensiveness about what some might allege could be an unlucky year. People seem to have been much more jittery in 1999 about the approach of Y2K and its forecast of a computerized meltdown.

Ashley Burbank of Washington, 14, who recently finished her 13th year, was waiting recently with her family and little dogs Diesel and Harley beneath the relatively dry space of the South Main Street pavilion before the wet, not white, Christmas parade.

“I like the number three because I was born on the third of June,” she said. Asked if she’s superstitious, Ashley said, “No. My mom is, though.”

At the 10,000 Villages marketplace in the George Washington Hotel, Joan Organiscak of Eighty Four also waved off any talk of a potentially unlucky year. “I got married on April Fool’s Day, if that tells you anything,” she said.

Ashley Lucas, 15, pointed out that 13 is Taylor Swift’s favorite number. The singer-songwriter’s birthday is Dec. 13, and Ashley’s dad, David Lucas, was born on June 13. “Same as any other birthday, I guess,” he said.

Baseball players are often known for their superstitious nature, but Steve Blass, Christmas parade marshal, baseball color commentator and former pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, has had only good luck with the number 13.

“My uniform number at my small high school in Connecticut was 13. I chose it. I thought it was lucky.

“It turned out to be good for me because I made it to the big leagues. It’s all good for me, and it’s going to be a great year for me and the Pittsburgh Pirates.”

Pat Rumbaugh of Washington, who was born on Friday, July 13, said, “I have better things to be concerned about than year 13. If the Congress doesn’t get this taken care of, we’re going to go over the cliff with our finances. I’m concerned, not worried. I know it’s all in God’s hands.”

No one knew what to call the 12 years between 2000 and now. Some have suggested the aughts or the naughts, but it never really, to keep rhyming, caught on. We finally have a handy appellation: The teens have arrived, and they’ll be here until 2020, that year of visionary perfection. (Maybe the last 12 years should be the “2000 pre-teens”?)

So why is 13 enough to strike fear in the hearts of some?

Thirteen is a prime number, divisible only by itself and the number 1, but, for that matter, so are 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, 53, 59 and a host of other numbers, and no one gets uneasy or queasy about those. The fourth number in that sequence, 7, for some reason, is considered a lucky number.

So why does 13 get such a bad rap?

The website answers.yahoo.com puts forth this theory: The Greeks had 13 months in the year. The 13th month was the “death month” when the sun died, in mythological terms. This may also have been the month in which those who predated the Greek civilization sacrificed their kings to ensure the sun’s return. Another reason for 13’s jinx is because Christianity places 13 at the table at the Last Supper. Dining with Jesus Christ were the 12 Apostles. “This association seems to have originated only in medieval times,” according to the mathworld.wolfram.com Triskaidekaphobia page. The group of 13 presumably gathered for meals many, many times without repercussions before their final repast.

Another meal in Norse mythology at which 13 appeared is also fraught with bad vibes.

“The god Odin invited 11 of his closest friends to a dinner party at his home in Valhalla, only to have the party crashed by Loki, the god of evil and turmoil, thus giving a total of 13 people,” according to the same website.

“The legend further relates how Balder, one of the most beloved gods, tried to throw Loki out of the party, resulting in a scuffle and ultimately Balder’s death with a mistletoe-tipped arrow.”

So 13 at the gathering gets the blame for the gruesome outcome while poisonous mistletoe goes on to an honored post on doorways as a plant associated with a “Merry Christmas” kiss. Go figure.

Here are two things to ponder for 2013: The 113th Congress is scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 3, 2013, in Washington, D.C., lasting until members of the 114th Congress take their oaths of office in January 2015.

And there is just one Friday the 13th in 2013, occurring in September. Other years have as many as three. According to the website SpeakingLatino.com, Tuesday the 13th is considered unlucky in Greece and Spanish-speaking countries, jinxing both marriages and journeys.

Couples having children in the 1990s likely gave little or no thought to calculating when those newborns would graduate, but college and high school students getting their diplomas this year will be forever associated with the Class of ’13.

Corrina Tender of Atlasburg, a senior at Burgettstown Area High School who turned 18 on Dec. 12, 2012, said, “I’m not really superstitious or anything about it, and I really like my class. I’m apprehensive about graduating obviously, and worrying about the future.”

Tender wants to study sciences in college, and she’s applying to some high-caliber schools where, presumably, she and her fellow thirteeners will morph into the class of 2017.

An email went out to a couple planning to marry on July 13, 2013, concerning their choice of a date, but they chose not to reply for this story. Or perhaps the message lacked luck, and it’s now wallowing in their spam file.

Because there hasn’t been a year ending in 13 for 100 years, perhaps its worth a look back to reflect on how 1913 turned out.

The year 1913 was when the Internal Revenue Service came into being, which many people would regard as a less-than-desirable development. But 1913 was also a last year of relative peace, except in that flashpoint known as the Balkans, before the European nations were plunged into the Great War, which became known as World War I due to an even more massive conflict that lasted from 1939 to 1945.

So it’s all relative. According to the traditional Chinese calendar, it’s been the year of the dragon since Jan. 23, and on Feb. 10, it will be the year of the snake, 4711. This number happens to coincide with the name and number of a famous German eau de cologne.

Sounds like a tremendous marketing opportunity for 4711 Echt Kolnisch Wasser to capitalize on (in 2013).

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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