Shouts of "7 come 11" are sure to echo right up until midnight tonight at dice tables from Salamanca to Niagara Falls, Ont., as casino patrons bet their bottom dollar that 7/7 /07 is their lucky day.
At the Falls Wedding Chapel in the Quality Hotel & Suites on Rainbow Boulevard in Niagara Falls, N.Y., a record 27 couples from the United States and Canada will line up to tie the knot hoping that the string of sevens will bring everlasting bliss.
In the same spirit, the family of Williamsville's Marie Gaulin will celebrate her 77th birthday at a party tonight in Eggertsville. Meanwhile Cheryl Galbraith of Hamburg, the seventh of seven children, will observe her 47th with all six siblings at a special Cawthard family reunion in North Collins.
All of the excitement arises from an ancient belief that the number seven symbolizes good fortune and that when sevens line up on the calendar once a century, as they have today, well, things must really be looking up.
Like Friday the 13th and last year's 6/6 /06, both widely considered bad omens, the "lucky seven" conviction "is an example of magical thinking based on the widespread human belief that people are influenced by the cosmos," said Phillips Stevens Jr., a University at Buffalo associate professor of anthropology and an expert on superstition.
That belief manifests itself "through ascribing luck or bad luck to particular numbers and dates," he said.
"Certain cultures believe the number seven is extraordinarily lucky, and that a combination of sevens is more lucky," Stevens said. "When the cosmos brings up this date with a string of sevens, it's extraordinary."
All of this "sounds New Age, and it is, but it's also part of universal belief systems," he added. "If your culture believes the number seven is lucky, which not all cultures do, it's a good idea to plan something important on that date."
Besides getting married, those plans commonly include buying lottery tickets, changing a will or deed or doing something else that might be life-changing, he said.
Yet Stevens, who is writing a book on sorcery and witchcraft, was caught off guard by all the cheery hubbub surrounding this particular convergence. "In my research it's never been very important," he said.
He thinks it may reflect the troubled times the U.S. is experiencing and a general yearning for something good to happen. "People tend to seek magical explanations in times of anxiety," Stevens said.
Among those trying their luck at the altar of the Falls Wedding Chapel will be couples from 14 states and Ontario.
Melissa Kaylor of Grove City, Pa., expects "good luck and a good day" for her marriage to Matthew Chestnut, her fiance of seven years. "I've never been to Niagara Falls. I can't wait to check it out," she added.
The Falls Wedding Chapel's 27 ceremonies -- the previous record of 18 was set on Valentine's Day 1996 -- will start at 10 a.m. and continue through 10 p.m. in the hotel chapel, at outdoor sites including the brink of the American Falls and the Great Lakes Garden and high above the cataracts in a helium balloon and a helicopter.
Four ministers will be needed to handle the crowded schedule, said the Rev. Gerard A. Fedell, the chapel's co-founder.