Search Related Sites

Friday, June 11, 2010

The custom of saying "God bless you" to someone who sneezed - How did it originate?

In many lands it is a custom for those standing nearby to say “bless you” to the person who sneezes. In German, the response is “Gesundheit.”  But how did this custom originate?

The common understanding is that some ancients believed that when a man sneezed, he was nearest to death. Note the following:

“The fear was based on an erroneous but widely held notion. Man’s soul was considered to be the essence of life. The fact that dead men never breathed led to the fallacious deduction that his soul must be breath. . . . It is thus not surprising that from the earliest days people learned to respond to a sneeze with apprehension and the fervent wish to the sneezer that God may help and bless him and preserve his life. Somehow in medieval times this early origin of the custom must have been forgotten because it was Pope Gregory the Great who was credited with having introduced the saying ‘God bless you,’ to anyone who sneezed.” - How Did It Begin? by R. Brasch
Most people today would probably agree that to believe that the soul escapes your body during a sneeze is irrational. It is not surprising then, that Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines superstition as “a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation.”
Also see:
Does the Bible indicate that the soul survives the death of the body?
Is the body and soul the same?
Why is the soul not immortal?
Do You Have an Immortal Soul?
Is “soul” a part of man that separates from the body at death and goes on living ? Consider what the Bible says. (WBTS)

Can't find what you're looking for in the search box? Try using the alphabetical list of topics below (for example, see "A" for "Angels"):
# A B C D E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L M  N O  PQ R S T UV  WXYZ