Friday the 13th: What does this superstition and others mean to Czechs?

On this day more Czechs play the lottery – but no one wants to get married! Read on for more superstitions from the Czech Republic

Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas

Written by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas
Published on 13.11.2020 09:55 (updated on 13.11.2020)

Today is Friday the 13th, said to be an unlucky date in cultures around the world, based on a number of doomsday historical and biblical associations. In the Czech Republic, pátek třináctého is also considered a harbinger of bad luck – among many other superstitions.

A few years back, Czech lottery agency Sazka polled people around the country to find out which superstitions are most strongly adhered to across the Czech lands. Only those polled in Karlovy Vary (15.4 percent), Olomouc (50 percent), and Zlin (44 percent) held particularly strong beliefs about Friday the 13th.

That said, over forty percent of Czechs wouldn’t get married on this day, although the survey found that three times more Czech people play the lottery Friday the 13th.

Czechs tend to adhere to a number of other superstitions more closely, such as:

  • Spilling the salt – In Prague (and nowhere else) over half of the people polled (55.7 percent) said doing this at the table was sure to bring about gloom and doom.
  • A black cat crossing your path – In Northern Bohemian, Moravia, and Central Bohemia people will go to great lengths to avoid a black cat.
  • Crossing over a canal – Walking over a manhole is said to bring misfortune in Hradec Králové and Pardubice.
  • Broken mirrors – It has been said that Czechs see broken glass as good luck (a bride and groom will break a plate and sweep up the fragments during the wedding party), but not according to this poll which found that over half of South Bohemians and Eastern Moravians think the opposite.
  • Stepping on the left foot – In English, “getting off on the wrong foot” is an idiom for an awkward start to a personal encounter; in Jihlava and the surrounding areas, it’s actually considered bad luck to literally take a step with your left foot.
  • Walking under a ladder – Half of those polled in the Ústí nad Labem avoid walking under a ladder.

While those mentioned in the poll are some of the most commonly held superstitions, you can read about some of the more obscure Czech superstitions here.