Have you ever wondered why some of us are compelled to say some variation of “Bless you” after a person sneezes? Is it because good manners dictate you to do so? Be it a nasal explosion or a tiny achoo but then no sneeze is complete without a “Bless you”! It’s like a knee-jerk reaction even if the sneezer is a stranger or you have heard the sneeze from afar and the reply from the sneezer is a simple “thank you.”
Some of us just say it without knowing the reason behind it, assuming that it would be considered rude or we don’t care for the person who sneezed.
The most popular theory is that it originated in Rome when the bubonic plague was ravaging Europe. Sneezing was one of the plague’s main symptoms, and it is believed that Pope Gregory suggested that a tiny prayer in the form of saying, “God bless you” after a sneeze would protect the person from death.
There’s another rumour that our hearts stop when we sneeze, and that saying, “bless you,” is a way of welcoming the sneezer back from the dead.
Another, more superstitious theory, is that it stems from the ancient belief that a sneeze might accidentally expel the spirit from the body unless God blessed you and prevented it. Other cultures thought that sneezing forced evil spirits out of the body, leaving others exposed to wandering spirits. A blessing was to protect both the sneezer and those around him.
In some cultures, sneezing is seen as a sign of good fortune or God’s beneficence.
Whether or not we are worried about evil spirits, momentary death or the plague, today saying a “bless you” after a sneeze is considered a polite gesture. And if a simple “bless you” happens to protect our souls, then even better.
Different communities have ways of saying “Bless you” in their language.
So the next time when you say or you hear “bless you” after a sneeze, you know the reason behind it.
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