Why do we say 'bless you' when someone sneezes?
In Dutch, it's "gezondheid," in Esperanto, it's "sanon," in estonian, it's "terviseks," and in English, it's "bless you." Even though this phrase is used multiple times a day, it's "a-choo" that many do not understand what it actually means or the reasons behind why we say it. And it's especially relevant nowadays, when your mind races to our not-so-great global situation the second someone around you sneezes!
For hundreds of years, people have been saying "bless you" after another person sneezes. While most of us do it out of good manners, there's a few theories about what the real reason behind saying this is. Lets break them down:
Theory one: In 1346, when the bubonic plague was terrorizing Europe, one of the symptoms of this horrific plague was coughing and sneezing. Many believe that Pope Gregory the Great suggested saying "God bless you," which originated in Rome, as a tiny prayer to protect the sneezer from an otherwise most certain death.
Theory two: Others believe that this gesture is referring to ancient belief that a sneeze forced your spirit out of the body unless God blessed you to prevent it. Alternatively, people thought sneezing forced evil spirits out of your body and left other people vulnerable. A blessing, or prayer, would protect the person that sneezed and also the people around them from evil spirits.
Theory three: It's a widely-believed rumor that when we sneeze, our hearts stop for a second. With this in mind, a lot of people say "bless you" to welcome the person "back from the dead" after sneezing. While it's proven that your heart does not actually stop when you sneeze - instead, it momentarily changes its regular heartbeat to adjust to the intrathoracic pressure increase in your body - it doesn't stop the meaning behind this theory.