Thursday, June 1, 2006

Apple #174: Blessing After a Sneeze

A few days ago, a faithful reader asked:

I'd like to know the history because "bless you" after a sneeze. I think it's quite amazing that across the board, in all countries, when you sneeze you are blessed after. Why? Why the sneeze and not the cough? Back in the ancient times they did not know that your heart skips a beat when you sneeze, so why did they choose the sneeze as a blessing point? Thanks!

I thought I had encountered the answer to this not too long ago, and by using my SUBJECT INDEX of this very same blog, I discovered I had covered this topic in an entry a while back on Sneezing.

Of course, my intrepid reader may not have begun following this blog until recently, so it is entirely understandable that this information could have been missed. But allow me to take this opportunity to recommend perusing the SUBJECT INDEX, a link to which is always available over in the right margin of these pages.

Here's the text relevant to the question at hand:

The tradition of saying "bless you" after a person sneezes dates back to 590 AD, when Pope Gregory became Pope while a plague was going on. He recommended that people pray unceasingly for God's protection against the disease. One of the ways that people followed his advice was to say the little prayer "God bless you" whenever someone sneezed, in the hopes of warding off the plague.

Actually, this reason is the most commonly given. As with many customs that people have carried on for centuries, no one can say with absolute certainty what the definitive, original reason was for the behavior.

And by the way, it is not true that one's heart stops during a sneeze. That belief is one that has persisted for a good long time, in spite of evidence to the contrary.

For a list of some other explanations for saying "bless you" after sneezes, see "Bless You!" from the ever-reliable, rumor-busting site

Thanks for the question, Anonymous. And keep them coming, readers! I know I still have elements of past questions to get to, but don't let that hold you back!


  1. my dad sneezes as soon as he is 'full' from a meal! -really-

  2. You are sooooooo good lookin'


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