Why Do People Say God Bless You When You Sneeze?
Why do people say God bless you when you sneeze? Don’t you find it weird that people say such things to a simple act of sneezing? Since there have been more than a few versions, the real origin of the expression is unknown.
One possible answer to the question “Why do people say God bless you when you sneeze?” dates to as early as 590 AD (although some say it began in 77AD) originally as an actual blessing when Gregory I became pope. When the outbreak of the bubonic plague was already reaching Rome, the pope ordered processions, litanies and constant prayer for intercession to fight off the disease. The people marched through the streets and chanted “Kyrie Eleison,” which is Greek for “Lord have mercy.” Since sneezing was believed to be an early symptom of the plague, those who sneezed were immediately blessed so they would not subsequently get the illness. It is said that the prayers had apparently worked as the plague of 590 AD quickly diminished.
The plague was not the first time sneezing was associated with death because in the Dark Ages, people believed that the human heart momentarily stops when sneezing. The person who sneezed would be considered dead for an instant so he had to be blessed. The blessing was meant to guarantee the return of life and to command the heart to continue beating. This is considered a possible answer to the question “Why do people say God bless you when you sneeze?”
Another probable answer to the question “Why do people say God bless you when you sneeze?” is that in many cultures including some parts of Europe, people believed that sneezing expels the soul, which is considered the breath of life from the body and that sneezing otherwise would open the body to invasion of evil spirits. Another take is that sneezing was believed to be the body’s attempt to force out an attacking evil spirit. Therefore, “bless you” or “God bless you” is used as a sort of shield against evil.
There are other explanations to the question “Why do people say God bless you when you sneeze?” One is that sneezing is considered a symptom of colds or flu so people wish the one who sneezes well. Sneezing is considered by some people as a sign that God would answer their prayers or it is an omen of good luck or fortune. “Bless you” in this case is recognizing that luck.
For Tibetan Buddhists, a sneeze, just like meditation, falling asleep or preparation for death, has the ability to provide you with a moment of clear consciousness and help you be open to greater understanding.