As today is Friday 13th, a day held as highly unlucky here in the UK, we in the Transun office have been rounding up our favourite Nordic superstitions that we have encountered. Many bad luck omens, such as the unlucky thirteen, spilling salt, walking under a ladder and having a black cat cross your path, seem to be common in many places around the globe, but others are a little more unique…
13 people at a table
In Norway it is seen as bad luck to have 13 people at the dinner table, and superstition says that one of these will die because of this. In this situation Norwegians will often say “tvi tvi” (the sound of spitting) to ward off evil spirits! This phrase can also be used to wish a friend good luck – similar to the ‘English phrase “break a leg”.
It is also worth remembering that when enter a barn you should always take off your hat and shout “hallo! hallo!” to warn the gnomes and dwarves who live there that you are coming!
Swedish manhole covers
In Sweden the cities’ manhole covers bear either a ‘K’ or an ‘A’ and while these signs do have practical uses (‘K’ for kallvatten meaning fresh water or ‘A’ for avlopp meaning sewage), it is believed that standing on a ‘K’ is lucky but an ‘A’ should be avoided at all costs.
Tradition states that the ‘K’ actually relates to kärlek (love) and the ‘A’ relates to avbruten (broken love). Any romantics walking Sweden’s streets will want to copy the locals and plan their routes to cover as many ‘K’s they can, and stay far away from any ‘A’s!
But if you do manage to do something unlucky, never fear! Just as we in the UK will ‘knock on wood’ to advert bad luck, Swedes too will tap on something wooden and say “peppar, peppar ta i trä” (“pepper, pepper touch wood”) to prevent misfortune.
In Finland and Norway you have the chance to discover more about your future love life on Midsummer’s Eve. It is said that if an unmarried girl collects 7 different flowers and places them under her pillow she will see her future husband’s face in her dreams! Let’s hope that no one suffers from nightmares…
Perhaps more practically, you are also advised to be careful around spiders in Finland – superstition dictates that killing a spider will make it rain the next day.
These little quirks and superstitions are part of the reason we love these countries quite so much, and with our in-depth knowledge of this fascinating area we can help you discover it too. Come and join one of our Arctic breaks and explore this wealth of folklore and tradition.