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Fall is here and so is the allergy season. You will be hearing those irritating sounds of coughs and cold more often now. While you must have already packed your handbags and school/office bags with hand sanitizers and wet facial tissue packs, there is one more thing you need to be prepared for - polite responses to sneezes.
You can be judged, rather misjudged for not smiling politely and empathetically to the person suffering from a cold. A "bless you" to the sneezing person is expected and in case you happen to overlook or ignore a sneeze, you suddenly become an object of hatred by those who noticed your impolite act. Besides offending the sneezing person, you have also done a mini crime that you may not be pardoned for, especially if that person happens to know you.
Though the good samaritans practice "god bless you/bless you" in response to a sneeze, not many know where and how did this practice find its way unto us. Let me do the honours and add to your knowledge of polite gestures.
First things first. Sneezing is nothing but a reflex action of trying to throw out whatever is bothering or irritating the inside of your nose. It can result from inhaling an allergen or dust particle or may just be caused by common cold and flu.
We have always been taught to be polite to others. A polite reaction to a sneeze is "bless you". Our parents, elders, colleagues, friends and everyone around reacts the same way on the sound of a sneeze, and so do we.
While there is no exact answer to the origin of "bless you" in reaction to a sneeze, there are some theories that exist to support the reasoning behind this polite phrase. Scroll down to read about these interesting reasons.
One of the common beliefs is that the phrase "Bless you" was uttered by Pope Gregory the great when the man before him died of a bubonic plague epidemic in the sixth century. Sneezing was one of the common symptoms of the plague and anyone who sneezed was wished good health by using the phrase "God bless you".
Pope's story makes some sense but this one will blow your mind. According to some people in the olden times, sneezing caused the soul to flee the body through the nose. Helpless as nobody could stop the soul from escaping, "Bless you" seemed to be a sympathetic response.
If the soul leaving the body during a sneeze was not reason enough to garner blessings from others, few others believed that while the soul left, devil found it an apt opportunity to make this body his home for the following times. Seriously?
All the above reasons fail to convince me even though they sound interesting. However, here is one answer that I can accept and have a sound sleep at night. It is said that your heart stops for a millisecond during a sneeze. Saying "Bless you" was a way to send your blessings to that person so that his heart resumes beating after that mini interruption. It was also a way of congratulating the "sneezer" of having kicked death in the face.
Now here is another fine theory related to this polite phrase. Some took the sneeze as a blessing and were grateful to the person who sneezed in their direction. Saying "Bless you" was an expression of gratitude!
Which of the above reasons impressed you the most, is not our concern but we definitely want the tradition to live long. Being polite and sending a blessing others way never did any harm to anyone.
Stay blessed people!