A note from KVV

October 11, 2023 Kapp Van Wyk Van Zyl Inc

Why Do People Say, “God Bless You,” After Someone Sneezes?

How often do we quickly reply with the words “Bless you” when someone sneezes, without thinking of it as a blessing, but just a polite social gesture to a sneeze?

The phrase “bless you” when someone sneezes has a fascinating history.

In different cultures and eras, variations of this custom emerged.

For instance, in some cultures, people would say “God bless you” to invoke divine protection. One belief is that it originated in Rome in the Middle Ages when the bubonic plague was raging through Europe. It is believed that Pope Gregory I (Gregory the Great) suggested saying “God bless you” after a person sneezed, in hopes that this prayer would protect them from an otherwise certain death.

The expression may have also originated from superstition. The custom of asking for God’s blessing stems from the ancient belief that a sneeze might accidentally expel the spirit from the body, unless God blesses you and prevents 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!

Then there is the rumour that our hearts stop when we sneeze. It’s an ancient belief that sneezing is a near-death experience and that saying “bless you,” is a way of welcoming the sneezer back from the dead (you know after your heart stopped!). But, that isn’t true. Even though your heart may skip a beat before resuming its regular rhythm, electrical signals that control your heart rate aren’t affected by the physiological changes that happen when you sneeze.

In some cultures and languages, different phrases are used in response to sneezing. For example, in Spanish, it’s common to say “Salud,” which means “health,” while in some Asian cultures a simple “Gesundheit” is used, which is German for “health”. Greeks and Romans may respond with “Banish the Omen”, and in Zulu – “I am now blessed”.

Over time, as our understanding of illness and sneezing evolved, the original superstitions faded away, but the practice of saying “bless you” remained.

So, when you say “bless you” to someone who sneezes, you are continuing a tradition that has its roots in ancient beliefs about the supernatural and the need to protect one another from unseen dangers.

Janene Marais  |  Conveyancer

The post A note from KVV appeared first on KVV Inc.

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