On Fridays, ‘everybody’s working for the weekend,’ when work is distracted by anticipation

By David G. Allan

It’s finally here, that “sweet and sour” day where work mixes with freedom. But pace yourself, the weekend has just begun!

This is part 5 in a 7-part series on the meaning, facts, pop culture and inspiration contained within the history and psychology of each day of the week.
Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday| Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday

hy do we love Fridays so much? We still go to work or school. The fun doesn’t begin until the day is half gone. It must be the anticipation of it, the light at the end of the tunnel, the cavalry coming to save us.

But we love it so much that many us routinely “thank God” today even exists. We love it so much that much of the world names the day for an ancient god of love.

Friday is Viernes in Spanish, and Vendredi in French, both named for the Roman goddess of love, Venus. For English speakers, Friday honors Frigg, the Norse goddess of love. Frigg’s German counterpart is Freya, which is also the origin for the Old English “freo,” meaning free, as in no longer in bondage to obligations, as in work and school.

Even Jesus, according to the Catholic liturgical calendar, died on a Friday so that we may all be free to go to heaven. The church calls the day he was crucified “Good Friday.” And apparently the traditional Catholic abstention of red meat on Fridays led McDonald’s to create the oil-scalding Filet-O-Fish sandwich.

This day is one to savor, as you plot how to celebrate the removal of weekday handcuffs. But don’t forget that you actually have to do your job, or go to classes, first. You gotta pay to play.

Sweet and sour day

It may not surprise you that Friday is demonstrably the least productive day of the week, according one survey of business researchers. And that’s part of what we like about Friday: the “casual” professional expectations.
A colleague of mine deliciously described Fridays as “sweet and sour.” You still go to work, but as soon as the horn blows you can slide off that dinosaur’s back and get the weekend started. Yabba Dabba Dooooooo!

Maybe you even have a Friday afternoon ritual to transition yourself from the work world into the free world. “Happy hour,” anyone? The Norwegian version of happy hour is called “fredagskos” (“Friday coziness”), a weekly tradition of gathering with friends or family around a fireplace or candles. It honors their cozy natural philosophy of “koselig” that helps make that country one of the happiest.

For Muslims, Friday is literally a day of ritual. Just as the sabbath for Judaism is primarily Saturday and Catholics have Sundays locked down, Islam does its big worship on Friday. Muslims pray five times a day, every day, but the most important is Friday’s “jumah” prayer. In fact, the Arabic word for Friday is “Al-Jumah,” which simply means the day of congregation.

The day isn’t all great, though. Friday the 13ths are traditionally considered bad luck, dating back to Jesus’ last supper before Good Friday, which had a guest list of 13. Sailors will tell you it’s unlucky to set sail on a Friday.

And maybe the superstitious are on to something. A Nationwide Insurance report found Friday was the most dangerous day to commute to work by car (related to Happy Hour in some cases).

And for no reason we can figure out, it seems the worst earthquakes in history like to strike on Fridays, including one in 2001 that killed more than 30,000 in Gujarat, India, another in 2003 in Bam, Iran, that left 40,000 dead; and the largest recorded earthquake in the US — a magnitude 9.2 that struck Prince William Sound, Alaska in 1964 — on Good Friday.

Ramping up for the weekend

“Friday night arrives without a suitcase,” The Beatles sang in “Lady Madonna.” I don’t know what that means but Friday doesn’t need a suitcase. You don’t need to bring anything with you. It’s not a destination, it’s the off-ramp. Exit here for freedom.

Loverboy is a former Canadian rock band that wrote a timeless Friday anthem to get us psyched for what’s coming:

Everybody’s working for the weekend
Everybody wants a little romance
Everybody’s goin’ off the deep end
Everybody needs a second chance, oh

If you’re reading this on a Friday, congratulations, you’ve once again crossed the Nefud desert of work or school. Your weekend oasis awaits. Be happy, even if it’s for just the one fun, drinkie, happy hour.

And no pressure to max out the day. Romans honored the goddess of love when they named this day, but not the Greeks (Aphroditeday doesn’t have a great ring to it). Instead, they call this day Paraskevi, which comes from their ancient word for “preparation” — though it had a more religious context back in the day. So instead of going nuts Friday, use it to prep for the rest of the weekend.

You still have Saturday (the subject of the next story in this series), and even another day after that, to cram in all the romance, for going off the deep end, and for a second chance at winning the week.

As for making Fridays better: Any day of the week holds the capacity to be your favorite. All it requires is taking control of it and bending it to your will, the subject of my story on hacking your week for CNN.com.

David G. Allan is CNN’s editorial director of Features overseeing CNN Travel, Style, Space + Science and Wellness. He writes a column for CNN called The Wisdom Project that can be subscribed to here.

CNN’s Editorial Director of Features (Travel, Style, Wellness, Science), plus The Wisdom Project column. This account represents my personal views, not CNN’s.

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