People often say “God bless you!”, “Bless you!”, or “Gesundheit!” when someone sneezes or goes “Aaachoo!”.
Why are people compelled to say so when you sneeze? Is there any rule related to sneezing or it’s just a mere superstition? Let’s find out the answer!
Certainly, because it’s something that we’ve been taught since childhood and has become second nature to us, it’s something we think little of as a blessing.
Some people use ‘God bless you’ when someone sneezes as a form of social gesture while others accept this social practice as a part of their religion and culture.
Is it a Superstition to say ‘God Bless You’ When Someone Sneezes?
1. According to old beliefs, a sneeze puts out the soul by letting it flee from the body through the nose. Saying ‘God bless you’ would prevent the devil from taking a person’s soul. While others believed it to be the opposite – evil spirits take advantage of the sneeze as an opportunity to invade somebody’s body and soul.
2. The tradition of saying “God Bless You” after someone sneezes is said to have originated from the Pope in the 14th century.
At the time, there was a bubonic plague, also known as the Black Death, going around and the Pope believed that saying “God Bless You” would help protect people from catching the disease.
It was a life-threatening disease that frequently made the victim close to death; therefore, the phrase ‘God Bless You’ was used as a benediction for a deceased person, and to those who are near to death.
3. Wishing someone well after they sneeze probably had ancient origins. In ancient Rome, people would sign off on each other’s communication by saying, “Jupiter preserves you,” or “Salve,” meaning “sound health to you.” In Athens, they might wish each other “long life.”
4. There is an old urban legend that told us our hearts stop when we sneeze, and we say, “Bless you,” as a sign of welcome for the sneezer-returns-from-the-deceased.
5. In place of ‘Bless you’ or ‘God bless you’, some atheist people say “Gesundheit”. The meaning of this German word is “health”. Some German also like to use the word “Gesundheit“, but many people in other parts of the world use this term without knowing its real meaning.
Possible Reasons Why People Say “God Bless You” or “Gesundheit” when You Sneeze
There are many possible explanations as to why people say “God Bless You” or “Gesundheit” when someone sneezes.
One explanation is that the saying is a way of blessing the person and wishing them good health.
Another explanation (already discussed) is that the saying dates back to the time of the Black Plague when people would say “God Bless You” in order to protect themselves from catching the disease.
Apart from these reasons, the following are some of the explanations why people say ‘God bless you, ‘Bless you’ or ‘Gesundheit’.
1) Social or Cultural Influence
We may imitate others who offer a blessing; we model their social behavior. This might start at a young age when we see and hear parents, and relatives around us doing this. Sometimes several ‘bless you’ will be heard from various people in the vicinity of a sneeze, a kind of social contagion.
2) Religious Faith
‘God bless you’ in response to someone when they sneeze is also taken as a religious component in major religions such as Christianity, and Hinduism. When some practices become a part of religion, they are deeply rooted in the mind of the followers of that particular religion.
3) Feel-Good Affection
Saying ‘God bless you’ could make a fleeting, generally positive influence on someone who sneezes. This term refers to a temporary inoculation to the micro-aggression witnessed every day.
4) Sudden Reflex
Due to the repetitive use of these words since childhood, ‘Bless you’ is deeply imprinted in the subconscious mind of most people. So, it is displayed as a sudden reflex when we see someone sneezing.
As a matter of fact, when we state ‘God bless you’, people typically respond it saying ‘Thank you’. The ‘Thank you’ functions as a reinforcement of gratitude and rewards.
Final words from Health Kura
There are many possible explanations as to why people say “God bless you” when someone sneezes. Some believe it is a superstition, while others believe it is a sign of respect for God. Still, others believe that the phrase originated as a way to ward off the devil or evil spirits.
However, no one really knows for sure why the tradition began. But whatever the reason, it is now a tradition that is involuntarily followed by many people all over the world.
Video: Why do People Say ‘God Blees You’ When You Sneeze?
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