Something Swedish

Friday the 13th & Superstitions: Fredagen den 13:e och vidskepelse


So, even if it was a coincidence, starting a new blog on Friday the 13th hasn’t gotten past my radar. When the hubby got home from work and we were on our way to the Systembolaget (the government owned [and monopolized] liquor shop in Sweden, the only store allowed to sell any alcoholic beverage with more than 3.5%. Side note: the drinking age is different in Sweden than in NY, 18 to drink in a restaurant and 20 to buy alcohol.), I asked if Swede’s have a different take on Friday the 13th. I thought that the difference would be interesting to write about! But, alas, he reported that it is the same unlucky superstition that us Americans believe in. Shucks! However, I went home and did some digging!

The first thing I found was an article on The Local, which is a very informative and useful website to English speakers wanting to keep up with Swedish stories: It is about the actual accident rates on Friday the 13th, interesting but not what i was looking for!

Among more searching I learned something! According to this blog,, today is something called Tjugondedag Knut.  This represents a tradition 20 days after Christmas, which falls on January 13th, when the “looting” of the Christmas tree occurs. Of course this means you take down your ornaments and get rid of the tree. Apparently in certain areas this is celebrated more than others with the tradition of festivals and celebration (also having to do with being an older tradition). An extension of Christmas (Jul), the “twentieth day of Christmas” is popular with children and teens, and anyone who enjoys eating the last of the Christmas goodies (such as edible ornaments). [an interesting find, since today when we went to town square I noticed that the big Christmas tree was still standing, which surprised me due to A) windy weather B) it being so long after the holidays.) I am accustomed to people taking down their trees straight after Christmas, New years, or twelve days after Christmas when the wise men visited Jesus. When do you take down your Christmas tree? We usually use a real tree so our answer is “When it starts dying too much” not adhering to any of the traditions.

While this is a much better note to start a blog on than a superstitious “holiday,” I am still on the hunt for Swedish perceptions of Friday the 13th or at least some different superstitions, every culture has them!

I guess it’s only fair to list  some (There are so so many, so only listing the ones I have personally heard growing up) superstitions of my own culture before comparing! (Of course, many superstitions root from older beliefs and superstitions, so a lot may be the same in Sweden!)

  • Starting with the Friday the 13th theme, many buildings skip the 13th floor and I’ve heard of at least one airline not having a row 13 and airports skip the 13th gate. Not sure if this extreme of the number 13 is an American superstition.
  • Don’t step on a crack or you’ll break your mother’s back.
  • Find a penny, pick it up, all day long, you’ll have good luck. A penny found heads up will bring good luck. Superstitious people do not pick up pennies head down!
  • Break a mirror, seven years of bad luck!
  • Don’t cross black cats path! (Swede’s believe in throwing salt over your shoulder to prevent bad luck from this meeting, or spitting over their shoulder three times.)
  • Don’t walk under a ladder! (Same in Sweden)
  • Knock on wood to avoid bad luck. (Same in Sweden, except it is “take on wood, or “touch wood”: ta i trä“)
  • Make a wish on an eyelash.
  • If your ear itches: Right = someone is speaking well of you. Left Someone is speaking ill of you.
  • Opening an umbrella indoors is bad luck.
  • If it rains on your wedding day it is considered good luck! (Same in Sweden) (Side note, it rained on ours! Thankfully from like midnight to 4am, but it still counts!)

Those are the major ones I can recall and relate to. Some Swedish ones I’ve found:

  • Leaving your keys directly on the table is bad luck. One story behind this, that is widely believed but not by everyone, is that leaving keys on a table was a signal for prostitutes being available. Parents of young women would tell their daughters not to do so because it was “bad luck” not wanting to say the real reason. (Whew, I hang my keys up!)
  • Sleeping with seven picked wildflowers flowers under your pillow on Midsummer will  give you dreams of your future husband.
  • Killing a spider will make it rain.
  • Stepping on a “brunnslock” (Sewer lid) is bad luck.
  • A bride wears a silver coin in one shoe and a gold coin in the other for good financial luck. (Similar to the “something borrowed ,something blue, something old, something new tradition)

There are too many to go around, some more prominently believed and discussed than others! Are there any that should be added from either culture? Happy Friday the 13th!


8 thoughts on “Friday the 13th & Superstitions: Fredagen den 13:e och vidskepelse

  1. Very informative and well written, I really like the superstition about the flowers under your pillow on midsummer, very fairy taleish.

  2. I’ve heard of the keys on the table and salt over your shoulder before, from Italian family members, wonder if those are more wide spread than just in Sweden? Very comprehensive list!!!

  3. I really liked this post!

    Stepping on a sewer lid is bad luck if it has an A on it, or no letter – well anything but the letter K. If it has the letter K (as in kärlek, love) – then you’re supposed to step on it and think about the one you want (and increase your chances)!

    I did the flowers under the pillow thing every year when I was younger! Where I grow up you didn’t just pick them, you had to be silent while picking them and then walk backwards around a well seven times with them (there are lots of different customs when it comes to those details…). Luckily we decided the concrete lid to our underground well was good enough, it’s not like everyone has a well these days…

    And if someone kills a spider, there will almost always be somenone saying “Now it’s your fault if it rains tomorrow!”.

    Never heard that explanation about the keys though, I think it’s just that you easily forget them and lock yourself out if you leave them on the table. Just as you are likely to knock something over if you open an umbrella indoors and can get something falling on you if you walk under a ladder. The mirror thing is probably because mirrors used to be very expensive, there was even an extra tax on mirrors in Sweden a long time ago.

  4. @Esby- Everything here in Sweden is fairytale-ish! (to me at least :P)

    @Allie- I’ve heard of salt over your shoulder, but while sitting at a table for good luck or protection? Something like that. I’m sure a lot of superstitions are cross culture, especially European countries. I would think that American superstitions would almost take a life on their own, having different/lesser influences from older superstitions?

    @liv- Ah, I did read about the “A” on the sewer lids but it was never clear enough so I didn’t mention that part- perfect! A lot of Swedish superstitions (I read a few more that I didn’t list) seem to be based on finding the one you love. And with such complicated customs! Sounds like a lot of work lol The key one actually came up the most in all the searches I did, of course highly debated between the explanations in each thread. I’m sure there’s a reasonable reason for every superstition, how they began is probably not as fun as the stories we make up!

  5. Reblogged this on Something Swedish and commented:

    Did you know that Something Swedish was STARTED on Friday the Thirteenth? Read about some Swedish superstitions in this old post – and don’t forget to scroll down to the comments to see what readers had to contribute! Do you have any to add?

  6. The saying we have in Britain about your ears (burning rather than itching) is someone is talking about you: Left for love and Right for spite.

    • Now that you say “left for love right for spite” I recognize that too, alongside the one I wrote down (although it’s opposite, which is strange!). It was ringing though, not itching or burning haha I suppose there are a lot of variations.

  7. Wow, Great stuff

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