Culture,  Preparing

Martes 13

Dear Theresa,

I know that being superstitious might not be your thing, but what happens when notorious ‘unlucky’ signs change while you are abroad, in a new culture? I for one question these cultural symbols and try to understand why they are different. Today is an exceptionally [un]lucky day in Spain because we get to celebrate martes 13, or our equivalent to Friday the 13th.


Why the 13th?

This question is probably the easiest to answer as it is the 13th both in Spanish and in English. The 13th is considered as an unlucky number for many (although perhaps unrelated and irrelevant) reasons. For example, in the Last Supper, it is understood that Jesus is betrayed by Judas, the 13th person around the table—12 plus Jesus. Or in most traditional Tarot decks, 13 represents Major Arcana or the card of eternal disgrace and death. Whatever the path that got us here, we can see how the superstition around the number 13 has spread to affecting our daily life—perhaps not in massive ways, but considering how hotels don’t have room numbers 13 and planes remove 13s from rows, there is some effect.


Why Tuesday?

When we are used to the ‘special’ day being a Friday, it is hard to understand why in Spain (and other Mediterranean and Latin American countries) they ‘celebrate’ it on a Tuesday or martes. The meaning can be traced back to the naming of the day, and the relationship these days had to the ancient gods. Martes is named after the god of war Mars (Marte in Spanish) and, therefore, Tuesday is the day that is associated with destruction and violence in this culture.


How did it come about?

The origins of bad luck on Tuesday the 13th can, supposedly, be traced back to 1453 when, in Constantinople, the Roman Empire fell to the Muslims in the cities of Geneva, Venice, and the Vatican. On Tuesday the 13th of that year, a lunar eclipse (perhaps more a sign from god than a scientific occurrence) and heavy rains created difficult situations for the success of the Romans and the bad luck of martes 13 was firmly cemented.


According to superstition, among other things, you shouldn't plan your trip to leave on Tuesday the 13th... “Hoy ni te cases ni te embarques ni de tu casa te apartes”

“Don’t get married or go on a trip or leave your home today*” is the saying related to martes 13 in Spain. Believing in it or not is up to you. Just keep in mind, when trying to be super productive on your beautiful Tuesday, that not everyone has the same expectation of the day.


What do you think? Are you superstitious or is today a day like any other?



*Another version of this saying is “don’t get married or go on a trip or leave your home on a Tuesday.” Just to highlight the aversion to Tuesdays that exist in general.

Resources used: Spanish and English

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *