Hugh Laurie

Sneezing Superstitions

by Heather Doherty


I grew up with an impatience with the anti-scientific. So I’m a bit miffed with our current love affair with all things Eastern. If I sneeze on the set, 40 people hand me echinacea. But I’d no sooner take that than eat a pencil. Maybe that’s why I took up boxing. It’s my response to men in white pajamas feeling each other’s chi.

– Hugh Laurie, from


Oh, Mr. Laurie, it could be worse…

Yes, it is that time of year again. Allergies, those stupid, sniffly colds about now as we anxiously await spring, and grumble over the last of winter.

Yeah, that’s right, I said it … grumble.

I work part time at a university library; my youngest son is in high school. There is a fair share of snuffle-snort-sneezes going around this time of the year in these public places.  Bless you rings through the air.

So why do we do that?  Bless people for sneezing?

In the early middle ages in Europe, people believed that life was attached to one’s breath. Literally. When a person sneezed and expelled so much of this life force/breath, people thought it could be fatal. So in that sense, God Bless You  was a desperately quick prayer that sneeze wouldn’t lead to a fatal situation.

There’s a fairly wide-spread  belief that if you sneeze without obvious cause, someone is talking about you.  If this is a one shot deal, something good is being said about you. Two sneezes? Something bad.  Three in a row? Someone out there is smitten with you.

A cat sneezes is a sure sign of good luck to anyone who hears it.

In many places around the world, if someone sneezes before the start of a work or business venture, it’s a very bad sign. Often, water is sipped just before the business commences to ward off the sneeze and ensuing bad luck.

My Dad used to sneeze – always – multiple times. (Once I asked him if was doing it for attention; struck me funnier than it did him …) Here’s the low-down on the sneeze count. One for sorrow; two for joy; three for a letter; four for a boy ; five for silver; six for gold; seven for a secret, never to be told.

These are kind of cool too: Sneeze on Monday for health. Sneeze on Tuesday for wealth. Sneeze on Wednesday for a letter. Sneeze on Thursday for something better. Sneeze on Friday for sorrow. Sneeze on Saturday, see your sweetheart tomorrow. Sneeze on Sunday, safety seek.

Here are a few other little ones I’ve come across over the years:  It brings bad luck to sneeze before arising in the morning. If you sneeze before breakfast, you will cry before dinner. If you sneeze twice before breakfast, you will have a beau that day. To sneeze three times before breakfast is a good luck sign. But wait a minute …To sneeze at the breakfast table is a sign of death. Or if you sneeze at the table when your mouth is full of food, there will be a death. (Depending on whom you spray with your food, maybe?)

Okay, though this sneezing video is not superstition related, it’s funny as hell.