This post is part two of a two-part series on the history behind some of the most common urban legends surrounding chimney sweeps. To read part one, click here!
So when we last left off, we talked about where the traditional top hat and tails look came from, and we mentioned our next popular myth about the chimney sweep – they make great wedding guests. You might think this has something to do with the formal get-up, but you’d be mistaken – it actually comes from a much different part of the chimney sweeps history.
Legend has it that in the 1700s , King George II was riding in a procession when a wild dog burst from the crowd, yipping and snarling. The dog so startled the horse King George sat atop that it began bucking wildly and he lost control of its halter. As the horse bucked and jumped, a sweep came forward from the crowd and caught the halter, calming the wild horse and potentially saving the King from grievous injury or death. The King is said to have declared chimney sweeps lucky from that point forward, and the custom of regarding sweeps as sources of luck spread rapidly throughout Europe.
Brides are thought to have an especially lucky marriage if they’re kissed on the cheek by a sweep the day of their wedding, and even shaking the hand of a sweep you meet on the street is thought to bring good luck. To this day, it is customary in German society to give gifts of figurine sweeps around New Years as signs of luck, and it is considered especially lucky to meet a sweep on New Years Day, a sign of good luck for the year.
In Great Britain it’s believed that a wedding with a sweep in attendance portents a happy and successful union, so much so that many families make a point of inviting their chimney sweep to their weddings. The practice is so common that it’s not unusual for a sweep to make himself available to rent as a wedding guest for more superstitious couples.
Do you have any old family superstitions that you still follow? Let us know in the comments!