Today is a special day

Hello! Let’s pretend that no time has passed and that I haven’t been absent for ages, shall we? I can guarantee it has been for good reasons… First a short vacation, then tons of work! Nothing new about that, right?

But anyway, I was preparing some classes for today and it struck me that today is a special day for at least two reasons:

– it’s Friday 13 – the only one in 2011!

– it’s May 13 – slavery was officially abolished in Brazil

So I scavenged the Internet for some useful information on these topics, and here’s what I’ve found. I’ve made the texts into reading activities, which I hope you enjoy doing…


Discuss these topics with a friend:

1) What does Friday 13 mean to you?
2) What do you know about its origins and meaning?
3) Have you ever had any problems on a Friday 13?
4) Do you have any special rituals to protect you from any harm that might happen today?

“Friday the 13th has been considered as a day of bad luck in various countries for many years. However, contrary to popular belief that Friday 13 is an unlucky day, it is actually regarded as a lucky day by some people and in some cultures.

The number of times Friday 13 occurs in the Gregorian calendar varies each year, from once a year to three times a year. Friday 13 occurs only once in 2011 – May 13.”

What do people do?

Guess whether these statements are True or False. Then, read the text below to check your answers.

1) People all over the world celebrate Friday 13.
2) There is a meeting of motorcyclists every Friday 13 in California.
3) It’s bad luck to be born on a Friday 13.

“Many parties, some with themes similar to Halloween, are celebrated on Friday 13 around the world. Friday 13 is a big celebration in Ontario, Canada. It is a day for motorcyclists to gather and it happens every Friday 13. The event attracts large crowds who gather at the town each year.

For those born on Friday 13, it is their lucky day, according to myth. Some people believe they may win large amounts of money through the lottery if they buy lottery tickets on Friday 13.”


Guess whether these statements are True or False. Then, read the text below to check your answers.

1) The fear of Friday 13 rests upon scientific facts.
2) The Bible may have given some foundation to the superstition.
3) The 13th guest to a feast may be the origin of the superstition.
4) Some people have panic attacks for fear of Friday 13.
5) The Egyptians considered the number 13 unlucky because it represented the afterlife.
6) Arab countries consider Friday a good day.

“The fear of Friday the 13th, also known as paraskevidekatriaphobia, does not derive from scientific explanation. It stems from mythology, superstition, old wives’ tales and stories of tragedy that are connected to this day. It is unclear where superstitions surrounding the day originated from. Some say that the concept of Friday 13 being an unlucky day is linked with events that occurred in the Christian Bible, and they interpret that these events occurred on a Friday. Examples include the great flood during the time of Noah, the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel, the day Eve tempted Adam with the apple, and the day Jesus Christ died.

The superstition could also be linked to Nordic mythology. According to legend, 12 gods were at a banquet when Loki, a god who was not invited, turned up, bringing the total number of guests to 13. He was responsible for the chaos that led to the death of one of the gods so all the other gods grieved.

The fear of Friday 13 continues in many places around the world. According to Dr Donald Dossey, up to 21 million Americans fear Friday the 13th. He also said much money would be lost in business because people refused to shop, travel or take risks on this day. Moreover, symptoms of this fear range from mild anxiety and a nagging sense of doom to full-blown panic attacks.

Friday 13 in August is considered unluckier than any other Friday 13 in Brazil, especially as agosto (so spelt) rhymes with desgosto (sorrow).

It is easy to blame Friday 13 for unfortunate events but this day was not always believed to be unlucky in history and in some cultures. The ancient Egyptians thought the number 13 was lucky because they believed that the 13th stage of life was related to the afterlife. After the decline of the ancient Egyptian civilization the number 13 was still associated with death but in a fearful manner. However, Friday is seen as the holiest day of the week in the Islamic world. It is set aside for communal worship where Muslims attend the Mosque. For people living in countries of the Arabian Peninsula, as well as Iraq, Friday is regarded as a day of rest.”

Have you noticed that some words have been underlined? Do you know the meaning of those words?


Discuss these questions with a friend. Then, read the text below and find the information:

1) What do you know about the end of slavery in Brazil?
2) Was The Lei Áurea the first initiative against slavery in our country?
3) What kind of suppoert was given to former slave owners and to the slaves themselves once they had been freed?

“The Lei Áurea, adopted on May 13, 1888, was the law that abolished slavery in Brazil. It was preceded by the Rio Branco Law of September 28, 1871 (“the Law of Free Birth”), which freed all children born to slave parents, and by the Saraiva-Cotegipe Law (also known as “the Law of Sexagenarians”), of September 28, 1885, that freed slaves when they reached the age of 60.

The Lei Áurea had only two articles:

Article 1: From this date, slavery is declared abolished in Brazil.
Article 2: All dispositions to the contrary are revoked.

The succinctness of the law was intended to make clear that there were no conditions of any kind to the freeing of all slaves. However, it did not provide any support to either freed slaves or their former owners to adjust their lives to their new status: slave owners did not receive any state indemnification, and slaves did not receive any kind of compensation from owners or assistance from the state.

Before the abolition of slavery, slaves were prohibited from owning assets or receiving an education; but after being freed, former slaves were left to make their own way in the world. Without education or political representation, slaves struggled to gain economic and social status in Brazilian society; this explains many of the social inequalities observed in Brazil to the modern day.

Aside from the activities of abolitionists, there were a number of reasons for the signing of the law: slavery was no longer profitable, as the wages of European immigrants, whose working conditions were poor, cost less than the upkeep of slaves, and the decline in the arrival of new slaves – Brazil was the last country in the Western world to abolish slavery. The Brazilian government was also under pressure from Britain, who sought to end the slave trade in order to expand production in its own colonies. For example sugar was produced both in Brazil and in the British colonies of the West Indies; the British strove to ensure that the Brazilians would gain no advantage in the world markets by using slaves.

The Lei Áurea had other consequences besides the freeing of all slaves; without slaves and lacking workers, the plantation owners had to recruit workers elsewhere and thus organized, in the 1890s, the Sociedade Promotora de Imigração (“Society for the Promotion of Immigration)”. Another effect was an uproar among Brazilian slave owners and upper classes, resulting in the toppling of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic in 1889 – indeed, the Lei Áurea is often regarded as the most immediate (but not the only) cause of the fall of monarchy in Brazil.”

Discuss the following topics with a friend. Then, watch the video and compare your ideas to those shown in it:

1) Is there slavery in the world today?
2) What kinds of modern slavery have you heard of? Where do you think they happen?
3) What do people think about modern slavery?
4) How many slaves are there in the world today?
5) Where and when were petitions signed against slavery?
6) Whose responsibility is it to end modern slavery?

These texts have been taken from the Internet (Wikipedia and such) and they do not necessarily represent my opinion on the matter.

I’d like to thank my readers for sticking with me despite my prolonged absence… I’ll try my hardest to make it up to you!



Filed under about the blog, learn

3 responses to “Today is a special day

  1. João B. L. Ghizoni

    Hi there, Carol! Nice you’re back! And to make up for the long time you were away, you wrote a looooong post, hey? Thanks and congratulations on today’s topic and text! Keep up your good work!

  2. Pingback: Tea Party – Slavery – History « Flickr Comments

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