First Friday the 13th of 2023 is a test for the superstitious in Chattanooga

Staff file photo by Olivia Ross / David Sherrill, chef and owner of Han-Mi, a Korean American restaurant on Broad Street, describes himself as "very superstitious." He says he'll call upon several traditions from the Korean side of his family to mark Korean American Day, which falls on Friday the 13th.

Whatever the rest of 2023 may bring, the year is starting with a day to disquiet the superstitious among us: Friday the 13th.

The day long considered a harbinger of bad luck is the first of two this year, the other coming in October.

According to, Friday the 13th can occur from one to three times in a given year. There will also be two in 2024 (in September and December), one in 2025 (June) and three in 2026 (February, March and November).

According to, which tracks unofficial holidays, there are more positive reasons to celebrate the date. Jan. 13 is also Korean American Day, Stephen Foster Memorial Day and National Rubber Ducky Day, among other designations.

We'll take that as a sign to start the day with a bath instead of a shower, sing a few bars of "Oh, Susanna" and eat at Chattanooga restaurant Han-Mi.

David Sherrill, head chef and owner of the Korean American eatery at 3103 Broad St., said Korean culture is extremely superstitious, owing to the influence of traditional religions, which include Shamanism, Confucianism and Buddhism. He said he's no exception.

"My (Korean) grandmother has a clay pot of sea salt, where every time she walks in (her house) she sprinkles some over her shoulder," he said by phone.

He and his Korean mother have a similar tradition, using Mason jars filled with sea salts and red beans "to keep the evil spirits at bay."

Sherrill said he keeps several such jars at his restaurant, though only the jars in the restrooms would ever be noticed by customers, who might mistake them for decorative additions.

To assure good fortune on Korean American Day, he said he'll adhere to one of the most enduring superstitions in Korean culture, which calls for offering food to dead relatives before a meal can be consumed by the living.

"If you're trying to ease the spirits, if you're having trouble or uneasiness, before serving anybody else, you feed the spirits first," he said. "It doesn't have to be a full plate."

So, on Friday, he said, "I'll leave a little bit outside the front door."

Superstition doesn't dictate a time span, so he can retrieve the plate within minutes, he said.

With good vibes from Korean American Day, he said he's less concerned about any bad juju associated with Friday the 13th.

"I think I'm fine with it," he said, then quickly added, "I'm not saying I won't be lighting a candle somewhere, just in case."

Contact Lisa Denton at or 423-757-6281.