According to Harriette Cole in her book, “Jumping the Broom,” the ritual was created by ancestors during slavery. However, other research indicates that “jumping the broom” was both an African as well as a European gypsy tradition representing the couple’s new home. In the Southern states where slavery was practiced, slaves could not legally marry so they created their own rituals to honor unions.
Jumping over a decorated broom symbolized various things depending on the culture but generally represented a wife’s commitment to clean the new home she was going to occupy. In the American South, the custom often determined who ran the household. Whoever jumped highest over the broom was the decision maker of the household.
Once slavery ended, jumping the broom fell out of practice because African-Americans could have legal weddings and because of the stigma it carried. Today, however, many couples in order to preserve their African heritage now combine a “jumping the broom” ceremony with a civil or religious ceremony.
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