- Nov 26, 2016
- central NC
It is said that broom jumping comes from an African Tribal Marriage Ritual of placing sticks on the ground representing the couple's new home together. I have also read that the spray of the broom represents all of us scattered and the handle represents the Almighty who holds us together.
Today broom jumping is a ritual that has been handed down from generation to generation. It serves to remind us of a time when wedding vows were not legally sanctioned for slaves. During slavery, slaves sought the legitimacy of marriage by jumping over the broom and into the bonds of domesticity. For them, this small ritual was a legal and bonding act connecting them with the heritage of the home land and giving legitimacy, dignity and strength to their unions. In their eyes this union was now sanctioned by "the Almighty."
People of African descent weren't the only ones who jumped the broom during the 19th century. This wedding custom was a common practice in Welsh, Scottish and Roma cultures. In pre-Christian Wales, couples who wished to commit to each other followed pagan tradition: A broom was placed across a home's doorway and, like jumping a hurdle, the groom leapt over it, and then the bride followed. If neither one of them made the broom fall -- or took a face-plant on the floor -- the marriage was meant to be. If the broom took a tumble, so did hopes for their marriage and the ceremony would be cancelled altogether. The broom jumping ceremony was widespread enough (especially among couples who didn't want or weren't given the legal right to have a court- or church-sanctioned wedding) that Charles Dickens referenced it in "Great Expectations" in 1861 when he wrote that a couple was married "over the broomstick."
Today, jumping the broom has become couture with expensive brooms designed and marketed specifically for weddings. Of course for many it is still an important wedding tradition -- whether they wish to pay homage to their ancestors, signify a fresh start or simply add a personal twist to their special day. Imagine what the slaves who had no choice other than this ritual would think about jumping couture brooms.
Jones, Gwynn T. "Welsh Folklore." 1930.
Kerby, Rob. "Jumping the Broomstick." Aug. 1, 2011.