WASHINGTON, DC,by Vance Garnett January 13, 2012 — This Friday is Friday the 13th. And it is only the first of three for this infamous year of 2012. Infamous because all sorts of unusual occurrences are expected, some of them unpleasant, such as December 21.
The Mayan calendar, a little known timepiece until the past few years, has provided some people reason for fear. Why? The Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012. This has been interpreted as the Mayans saying (in our vernacular): "This is all the timekeeping you'll ever need; after that, it's lights out." 
Then there is Friday the 13th coming thrice in a single year, although this is not the first time. But it is especially noteworthy, however, in the context of this year:
*In 2012, the planets will align for the first time in 3,000 years.
*There will be three eclipses.
*In August there will be a blue moon, which is the second full moon within a month. This will, consequently, bring the year's number of full moons to 13.
Is this getting scary yet? Does it sound like some "decoded" "conspiracy theory" by "History Detectives"?
In order to have a Friday the 13th, the first day of a month must fall on a Sunday. This ordinarily occurs once a year. For there to be three such days in one year is unusual.
Finally (perhaps I shouldn't use the word "finally" in this context), it's no secret that a presidential election will take place this year. Also scary?
The History of 13
The number 13 alone sparks a significant amount of concern for a goodly number of Americans. The sesquipedalian name, which will likely prompt conversation in the faculty lounge, is “triskaidekaphobia.” Some students may sneak into classes early on Friday morning and print on blackboards: "Eschew obfuscation and triskaidekaphobia." 
And it spells “double trouble” when the 13th day of a month falls on a Friday.
Fear of the number 13 is real. It has plagued such historic figures as  Napoleon Bonaparte, J. Paul Getty, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR’s secretary, Grace Tully, wrote that her boss was "superstitious, particularly about the number 13.” She reported that on a number of occasions she was abruptly summoned to be a guest at a White House dinner in order to round out the number of people at the table to 14. This is attention-worthy when one  considers that this is a man who soothed a troubled nation with the words, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."
Hotels and office buildings often avoid designating a 13th floor. In such cases, elevator lights blink from 12 to 14. Some hospitals will not ascribe the number 13 to a ward. Some airports, for example, label their gates 12, 12A, and 14.
The superstition of Friday the 13th stems from the Last Supper. As vivified by Leonardo da Vinci's painting, 13 men sit at the table. The following day, a Friday, the central figure, Jesus, is put to death.  Until the end of the 19th century, Friday was dubbed “Hangman’s Day” because that was the day designated for executions. 
One stress management center has recorded that as many as 17 to 20 million people are affected in varying degrees by Friday the 13th. Some are "paralyzed by fear." The name ascribed to this specific phobia is “paraskavedekatriaphobia.”
Lucky 13
By contrast, there are those who profess to believe the 13 to be a lucky  number. This is often the case for those whose birthdays are on the 13th of the month. To represent that philosophy, this writer coined the word  “triskaidekaphilia,” which would mean, of course, “a love or appreciation of the number 13.”
One might make the case that our nation’s Founding Fathers would fall into this category. They seem to have shared a fondness for the number 13 and might, therefore, be called “triskaidekaphiles.”
Think of the 13 original colonies, which blossomed into the 13 original states. These were immortally represented by the circle of 13 white stars on the blue field of our new nation’s flag.
The Great Seal of the United States dramatically demonstrates this point.
This Seal contains:
Great Seal of the United States
13 stars
13 stripes
13 feathers in the eagle’s left wing
13 feathers in the eagle’s right wing
13 feathers in the eagle’s tail
13 arrows in the eagle’s left talon
13 leaves on the olive branch in the eagle’s right talon
13 olives on the branch in the eagle’s right talon
13 clouds in the glory above the eagle’s head
13 letters in the motto, e pluribus unum
 This U. S. Seal proves that the number 13 presented no threat or concern for our nation’s founders.
Knowing this may help the superstitious to realize that when it comes to the number 13 and Friday the 13th, they need not fear.
As for 2012 being Earth's last year, however, I can't help you there. Perhaps you may take comfort in the final words of T. S. Elliot's "The Hollow Man":
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
Or maybe it doesn't end at all, and there is nothing to get all nympholeptic about. Perhaps next year we can put all this behind us and just enjoy New Year 20, uh-oh, 13!
Vance Garnett's writings have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. They have won the praise of such luminaries as Paul Harvey, William Safire, and Shirley Povich. Vance calls himself "a lover of all things Washington."

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