How Mister Rogers made Friday the 13th less scary


Image by PBS Television/Courtesy of Getty Images.

If you're old enough to know who the man pictured above is, you're one of the lucky ones.

That's Fred Rogers, better known as Mister Rogers of the legendary PBS children's show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."


Before his passing in 2003, Rogers was a leader in the efforts to educate the mind, body, and spirit of children as well as nurturing the best in adults, too. (For an example of the latter, and you may want to have some tissues ready, watch his speech accepting a lifetime achievement Emmy award here.)

And despite the fact that he played with puppets — such as the one pictured below — he took a very rational approach to the world. For example, he wasn't afraid of Friday the 13th, and he didn't want children to grow up fearing it either.

Image via Emmy TV Legends/Archive of American Television.

If you're old enough to know who the puppet pictured above is, you're also one of the lucky ones.

That's King Friday, the ruler of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, a fictional, puppet-populated realm to which Mister Rogers traveled in most episodes of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."

"We just thought that was fun because so many people are so superstitious about Friday the 13th that we thought, let's start children out thinking that Friday the 13th was a fun day."

Wikipedia describes King Friday as “relatively egocentric, irrational, resistant to change, and temperamental, although open-minded enough to listen when told he is wrong." But his name reveals another part of his biography.

His full name is King Friday XIII — that is, King Friday the 13th. That's a reference not to his lineage (there wasn't a King Friday XII), but to his birthday. King Friday XIII was born on Friday the 13th, and regardless of month or frequency, every Friday the 13th was King Friday's birthday.

In a 1999 interview with the Emmy's website, Rogers explained (full video here, and that link starts at the relevant part):

"His name was King Friday XIII. We just thought that was fun because so many people are so superstitious about Friday the 13th that we thought, let's start children out thinking that Friday the 13th was a fun day. And every Friday the 13th would be his birthday. So we would celebrate his birthday every time a Friday the 13th came. And that was so wonderful about [broadcasting a live TV show] — when a Friday the 13th came, you knew it."

As a nice bonus, if you were a kid who was celebrating a (real) birthday on a Friday the 13th, many grown-ups might have told you that your special day was cursed, but Mister Rogers was throwing the king — and you — a birthday party.

For a generation of children, Friday the 13th became a day of celebration thanks to a guy and his make-believe neighborhood.

Dan Lewis runs the popular daily newsletter Now I Know ("Learn Something New Every Day, By Email"). To subscribe to his daily email, click here.

Most Shared
via bfmamatalk / facebook

Where did we go wrong as a society to make women feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public?

No one should feel they have the right to tell a woman when, where, and how she can breastfeed. The stigma should be placed on those who have the nerve to tell a woman feeding her child to "Cover up" or to ask "Where's your modesty?"

Breasts were made to feed babies. Yes, they also have a sexual function but anyone who has the maturity of a sixth grader knows the difference between a sexual act and feeding a child.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Instagram / JLo

The Me Too movement has shed light on just how many actresses have been placed in positions that make them feel uncomfortable. Abuse of power has been all too commonplace. Some actresses have been coerced into doing something that made them uncomfortable because they felt they couldn't say no to the director. And it's not always as flagrant as Louis C.K. masturbating in front of an up-and-coming comedian, or Harvey Weinstein forcing himself on actresses in hotel rooms.

But it's important to remember that you can always firmly put your foot down and say no. While speaking at The Hollywood Reporter's annual Actress Roundtable, Jennifer Lopez opened up about her experiences with a director who behaved inappropriately. Laura Dern, Awkwafina, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong'o, and Renee Zellweger were also at the roundtable.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Life for a shelter dog, even if it's a comfortable shelter administered by the ASPCA with as many amenities as can be afforded, is still not the same as having the comfort and safety of a forever home. Professional violinist Martin Agee knows that and that's why he volunteers himself and his instrument to help.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

Believe
True
Macy's