Have you ever heard of jumping the broom? Well, it is actually a wedding custom practised by many couples around the world.
During the wedding ceremony the bride and the groom would jump over a broomstick and in many cultures the broomstick acts as an imaginary line and crossing it means sweeping away the former single lives and concerns of the newlyweds. It is like entering a new phase of life as married couples.
The custom of jumping over a broom has Welsh, Romanian and African heritage. Though much is not known about the practice's Welsh and Romanian origin, the custom is still prevalent among many African countries.
The custom is said to have a West African origin. It is said that in olden days the brooms were waved above the heads of newlywed couples to ward off evil spirits.
According to some historians, during the in the 18th century, most parts of Ghana was ruled by Asante of Ashanti Confederacy and they used to keep the roads clean for the visiting White traders. So the brooms had a significant role in the lives of the native population and gradually these brooms attained spiritual value. Later the brooms started to be part of wedding rituals.
Jumping over the broom also symbolised the bride's willingness to keep her new home clean. Another interesting factor is that whoever jumped the highest would be considered the one who will run the household (no doubt the groom obviously).
For the African slaves of the 18th century, this custom was kind of an act of rebellion. Those days the enslaved slaves were not permitted to wed legally. So they developed their own custom to solemnise the wedding. The jumping over the broom was recognised as a wedding custom among the slave community.
Well, maybe it was the reason why the phrase broomstick wedding was used in the mid 18-th century to describe something that lacks the approval of authority or a sham marriage.
After the end of slavery, the custom was seldom practised and declined as it was not necessary for the native people to keep their marriage a secret. And they too began to follow the wedding customs of their European and American counterparts.
But it was resurrected after the popular novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley and the subsequent TV series based on it based showed the ceremony in details.
The present generation has incorporated the custom into their actual wedding. Most of the couple practice it towards the end of their wedding ceremony as a tribute to the custom. The custom was later absorbed by other cultures and is still practised by many.