Friday the 13th - The Portuguese Halloween Party
In Western civilization, Friday the 13th has been considered an unlucky day, always surrounded by fear and superstition. Until today, the irrational fear of this day exists and it can be so relevant in peoples’ lives that it even has a scientific name: paraskevidekatriaphobia (yes!).
No one knows for a fact how this started, there are many theories that try to explain it, some more interesting than others.
For the Christians, the 13 can be an unlucky number because Judas Iscariot, the traitor, was the 13th guest at the Last Supper, and he is considered one of the responsibles in Jesus’ crucifixion.
In Norse Mythology, when 12 Gods were having a dinner party, a 13th guest showed up without an invitation, Loki, and he plotted to kill Balder, the son of Odin – “when Balder died, the whole Earth got Dark” – therefore the number 13 is considered unlucky.
From the 19th century, it is also assumed that it was on a Friday the 13th that the French king, Filipe IV, arrested and sent an order to persecute hundreds of the Knights Templar which led to the order’s disappearance.
Even if all these theories can explain the unlucky number, my favourite – that also can explain the party that we’re here for – is the myth of the Northern goddess Freya (or Frigg). Freya was the wife of Odin, a goddess associated with love, sex, beauty – the equivalent of Venus in Roman mythology. As a goddess, she was given a day of the week, Friday – that means “day of Frigg”, “day of Freya”.
In some Latin countries, the name of this day of the week also comes from this goddess but from her Roman version Venus, so “the day of Venus” – Viernes (Spanish), Vendredi (French), Venerdì (Italian).
When Europe converted to Christianity, Freya was not praised as a goddess anymore, she was put to the side, abandoned, sent away to live in no man’s land as a witch. There, feeling betrayed by her people, she swears for revenge. Freya starts gathering with another 11 witches and the Devil himself (13 beings) on the day of her name, doing malefic rituals. She would then cross the skies in her carriage pulled by cats (hence why cats are bad luck too!) cursing the infidels that had abandoned her.
Portugal, apparently, didn’t escape the curse. We gave in to the Christian pressure and changed the name of “the day of Venus” to “Sexta-Feira” – so Freya still comes here to haunt us. In Montalegre, a city far North in the country, every Friday the 13th, twelve witches gather with the Devil in a well-known bridge (Misarela bridge) to curse the villages and the villagers. Our way to respond to this curse? It’s throwing one of the biggest parties you’ll see in Portugal.
Every Friday the 13th, rains, shines or snows, people come from all over the country and the North of Spain to exorcise the curse and the witches. The castle and the city are all decorated Halloween style and we dance, drink and party all night to the sound of Portuguese bagpipes, folk music and the taste of Queimada Galega, the perfect drink to scare away evil spirits.
So, if you are in Portugal near this unlucky day, make sure to come and celebrate with us in the picturesque city of Montalegre – dance those evil spirits away and start enjoying the 13ths instead of fearing them!
Make sure to contact us if you need help finding a place to stay nearby, or on how to get there or party like a true Portuguese! We are always happy to hear from you.