Red Thread

Nikola Jovanović, a young Serb who recently immigrated to Gothenburg, diligently carried out his job as a waiter in a local café. The workday was progressing as usual until two customers took a seat at the counter – Sebastian Edberg from Sweden and Mijo Kovačević from Croatia. It was evening, around nine o’clock local time, and a football match between Cameroon and Croatia was being played at the World Cup in Brazil. Nikola noticed an unusual similarity among them – all three were wearing a red thread around their left wrist.

Approaching to take their order, Nikola was curious and intrigued by what he saw, unable to resist acknowledging the shared symbol on their wrists. Sebastian had a tattooed red thread, while Mijo and Nikola had actual red threads.

“Hello, gentlemen! I noticed that both of you are wearing a red thread on your wrists. It seems we have something in common,” Nikola addressed them with a smile, immediately fostering a positive atmosphere between the bartender and the guests. They conversed in English, simple and straightforward, without any barriers.

Sebastian shrugged, and Mijo chuckled. “Yes, you’re right. The red thread holds special meaning in our cultures,” Mijo replied.

Nikola was interested and eager to hear their stories. They got acquainted and began an animated conversation. “Well, would you like to tell me what the red thread symbolizes in your cultures? I don’t know anything about it; I thought it was related only to my culture,” Nikola inquired.

Sebastian took a moment to gather his thoughts before responding, “In Sweden, the red thread is often associated with protection. It is believed to bring luck and shield against negative energies. Many people wear the red thread as an amulet or a talisman. This tradition is passed down through generations, and it’s considered part of our heritage.”

Sebastian continued his story, saying, “In my family, this amulet has sentimental roots because my great-grandfather, Olaf, was a sailor all his life. One late autumn, while he was out fishing for herring, a terrible storm struck. The radio reported that such a storm hadn’t occurred in the last 40 years, and everyone at home was deeply concerned for him. However, he returned from his fishing trip a few days later, alive and well, and with a smile, he said to us, ‘It’s all because of the red thread,’ lifting his left hand confidently. This event became a family legend; both my grandfather and my father wore the red thread throughout their lives. As for me, I took it a step further—I got it tattooed when I turned eighteen, so I could always have the feeling that this family amulet is with me, or rather, that my great-grandfather is actually watching over me.” The two listeners were simply thrilled by the story and decided to share their own experiences and beliefs regarding the red thread.

Mijo chimed in, adding to the conversation, “In Croatia, we also have a similar belief. The red thread is worn to protect against evil forces and curses. It is believed to bring luck and prosperity. Many people tie the red thread around their wrists or use other amulets for protection. It’s our way of feeling safe.”

He then openly admitted to the conversation partners that the red thread found him rather than the other way around. He shared that when he was little, he had been very frail, and his late grandmother Mira tied the thread around his wrist when he was three years old, after he had recovered from jaundice. Since then, he had grown stronger, and illnesses rarely affected him. He genuinely believed that the red thread protected him from misfortunes in life and brought him luck. Therefore, he said that during the entire first half of the game, he would touch the red thread with his finger, hoping it would help his national team achieve good results in the championship.

Nikola listened attentively, captivated by the notion that these two distinct cultures shared a common belief. They discussed other customs and traditions from their respective countries, enjoying the experience of exchanging knowledge and forming a bond. That evening, the three of them realized that the connection between people could be stronger than their differences, and the world was richer when different nations came together and learned from one another. 

“My girlfriend, Jovana, tied this thread around my wrist when I was leaving Serbia. She simply said, ‘May luck accompany you there in the cold north. I hope it reminds you of me and makes you feel warm and safe. I deeply believe, my Nikola, that this small gift of mine will mean something to you far away, all alone in a new world, and help you quickly adapt and settle in the new country.’ And here I am, guys, I got a job right away, I’m doing well, living alone in a great apartment, and I’m happy. They informed me this morning from the embassy that her work visa has been approved as well, and we will soon be together.”

As they spoke, the atmosphere in the café grew warmer. They bonded. They felt connected. They realized that despite their national and cultural backgrounds, they shared the same need for protection and happiness. The connection they felt because of the red thread on their wrists reminded them of the importance of understanding and accepting different cultures.

As the football match continued on the café’s screen, Nikola, Sebastian, and Mijo continued to share stories, laugh, and relish the friendship that blossomed from that chance encounter. While the red threads remained on their wrists, they became a symbol of the connection they shared, transcending nationality and culture.

As the match approached its end, Mijo felt goosebumps because the result was highly positive—Croatia defeated the Cameroon team with a score of four to nil—and he believed that the red thread played a role in that series of events.

At the end of the evening, as they went their separate ways, they all knew they had gained something special—friends from different parts of the world and a wonderful memory of that night in the café in Sweden.


Belief in the protective power of the red thread is widespread in various cultures around the world. It is often associated with symbolism of luck, protection from evil forces, and negative energies. People who believe in this belief wear a red thread as an amulet or talisman that protects them from misfortunes and brings them prosperity.

There are different interpretations and customs associated with the red thread in various cultures. Here are some of the most well-known:

Mediterranean Culture: In countries like Greece, Turkey, and Italy, the red thread is considered an amulet that protects against curses, the evil eye, and negative influences. The color red is believed to ward off evil, so the thread is tied around the wrist or worn as a bracelet.

Jewish Tradition: In Jewish culture, the red thread is called “Magen David” or “David’s Star” and symbolizes protection. It is believed that wearing this thread brings luck, protects against evil spirits, and helps maintain spiritual well-being.

Hindu Tradition: In Hinduism, the red thread known as “raksha sutra” or “protective thread” symbolizes protection from evil forces. The thread is tied around the wrist or worn around the neck as a protective amulet, believed to provide protection, happiness, and prosperity.

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