Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bless you! Gesundheit! Salute! Na zdravlje!

Someone next to you sneezes.  What do you do?

  1. Stare at them.
  2. Run for your life.
  3. Ignore them.
  4. Say "Bless You" or "Gesundheit".
The usual answer by people is #4.  I have several family and friends who always, always say "Bless you" (to your health).  They can't conceive of someone sneezing and NOT say it.

Why do we say Bless You (or Gesundheit or Salute or Na zdravlge or others)?

In 'olden times' people would say God Bless You to ward off evil spirts when someone sneezed.  Some thought that a sneeze released the spirt monentarily and evil spirits might make off with it.  Or that the sneeze got rid of evil spirits and they Blessed you in the hopes the evil spirits would not return to your body.

During the Black Death, some thought sneezing was a sign the person was sick, so they Blessed them, wishing them a speedy recovery.

Other thoughts were that the heart stopped when a person sneezed, and someone would Bless you in hopes your heart would start back up.

Bless You in other languages would be Gesundheit (German) or Salute (Italian) or Na zdravlje (Croation).

Contemporary responses

As noted above, many, many people still say Bless You when someone sneezes.  But not everyone.  The office that I now work in used to say it when I first joined them.  Now, only one or two people do it, and it is subdued.  Once in a while NO one says anything.  And while I haven't said Bless You in years, it still feels like something is missing.  The tradition still lingers.

I am not a superstitious person.  I don't believe in astrology, numerology, fate, destiny, or bad luck from black cats crossing my path or breaking mirrors.  A few years ago, I looked up Bless You and the reasons for using it, and found the superstitions listed above.  So I stopped Blessing anyone.  Sometimes, depending on the company I am with, I might say 'geez' or some little something, because I feel like I have to say SOMEthing.  I grew up around some family and friends who not only said it themselves, but expected to hear it when they sneezed.  So I haven't completely given up saything something yet.

I like traditions, in general.  I send birthday cards to family and friends.  Presents are opened on Christmas Day, not Christmas Eve.  I go to the local fireworks display every Independence Day.

But I no longer Bless Anyone. 


afkicken said...

I would run away!

Anonymous said...

I would tongue-punch your moms fart-box...

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