Culture and Society

What does "jumping the broom" mean?
Answered by Science Channel
  • Science Channel

    Science Channel

  1. "Jumping the broom" is an expression meaning "to get married," and it is an African-American tradition stemming from the days of slavery. African-American slaves were often not permitted to marry, so they had to create their own customs and traditions to mark this special occasion among themselves. Other slaves would lay a broom on the floor, and the new couple would jump over it together, symbolizing the start of their life. This tradition may have originated in Africa, although some Celtic tribes had a similar custom. Some African-Americans today still jump the broom.

    If jumping the broom seems like a touching and interesting tradition, it's not alone. Marriage ceremonies the world over are filled with interesting, and often amusing touches. In a Jewish wedding, for example, the end of the ceremony is punctuated by the groom stomping on a glass until it shatters (it's usually wrapped in a napkin to prevent injury). The tradition is meant to symbolize the Holy Temple's destruction in Jerusalem and also to remind the couple and all present that, even on such a happy day as a wedding, the destruction must always be remembered [source: Jewish-American History Foundation].

    Some wedding customs just have an air of playful high jinks about them. German weddings sometimes have an unusual feature: The best man "kidnaps" the bride during the reception. Then he takes her to a pub, per the tradition, and drinks champagne with her -- that is, until the groom is able to find them. Of course, there's a fiscal downside to the groom locating his beloved: He gets stuck with the bill from the pub. There's an element of thievery in some Indian weddings as well. Sometimes the groom in an Indian wedding has to look out for his shoes, lest they be stolen by the bride's family, which will hold them for ransom. If the groom's family fails in its duty to protect the groom's shoes, the newly married man will have to pay the ransom for their return [source: U.K. Telegraph].

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