Jumping the broom: Meaning and History

Jumping the broom: Meaning and History

If you’ve seen the 2011 comedy drama, Jumping the Broom, starring Angela Bassett and Paula Patton, you’re likely to wonder where the tradition of jumping the broom comes from. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase before, but you never quite knew exactly what it was. Well, not to worry.

Jumping the broom is a predominantly African American tradition in which the just-wed couple hops over a broomstick while holding hands. Many American couples choose to incorporate this tradition into their wedding celebrations, often after the wedding kiss.

For some couples today, incorporating the tradition is a way to acknowledge their history and culture. In fact, ‘jumping the broom’ is widely accepted as a part of the lexicon of African American culture. In addition, the custom serves to symbolise the sweeping away of the past to clear the path for a new start.

The broom itself can be bought at stores, already fully decorated. There are many online stores who cater to this need. Alternatively, couples have opted to decorate the broom themselves. In some cases, couples take a plain broom to the wedding ceremony and provide guests with ribbon on which to write their names. Guests are requested to tie the ribbon to the broom before the ceremony begins.

The ceremony dates back to the 1600s and is derived from Africa. Many have claimed that it also has roots in Celtic Culture.

18th century Europeans said that Ghana was an extremely clean place and they attributed this to the fact that brooms were made locally. For whatever reason, the broom’s symbolism found itself being incorporated into the wedding ceremony. According to the African American Registry, jumping the broom “symbolised the wife’s commitment or willingness to clean the courtyard of the new home she had joined”.

As a result of slave trade, the custom made its way to America. Slave marriages were not legally recognised by slave owners. The enslaved people thus used the tradition as a symbol of the beginning of their union as it was their only option for some sort of formal marriage.

Atlanta Black Star claims that “the ceremonial jumping of the broom served was an open declaration of settling down in a marriage relationship”.

The tradition has permeated through time so extensively that the phrase “jumping the broom” is equivalent to “tying the knot” or “getting hitched”.

Image: Instagram /peterjonathanimages

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