A friend of mine (Thank you Charles!) suggested this topic for today’s post – and because it is wine-related, I ran with it. Even though I am familiar with some of the history, I wanted to dig into the subject a little more.
So just where did the ritual of “TOASTING” come from? How did this tradition that is so engrained in our culture get named? Does it always require alcoholic beverages?
The act of clinking or touching glasses has been known to come from people being concerned about poisoning. Centuries ago, kingdoms would be easily overtaken by leaders being poisoned. So people started clinking their glasses together causing the liquid to spill into each other’s glass, and then both parties would drink. (Apparently there is no evidence for this, but it sure makes for a great story.) Other sources say the word TOAST was connected to the 17th century tradition of flavoring drinks with spiced toast. According to THE INTERNATIONAL HANDBOOK ON ALCOHOL AND CULTURE, toasting “is probably a secular vestige of ancient sacrificial libations in which a sacred liquid was offered to the gods in exchange of a wish, a prayer summarized in the words of Long Life! or To Your Health!”
Toasts are a tradition in our culture. It is an expression of goodwill or honor. If someone is proposing a toast to congratulate someone or something (such as getting married or receiving an award), then it is in reference to that person or that thing that is being honored. Words are often spoken for a toast, but just the act of raising one’s glass also acknowledges the honor of the person or thing.
Toasting does usually involve alcoholic beverages. Champagne or sparkling wine is often associated with holidays, New Year’s Eve in particular. Although I did make a toast to the Presidents on Presidents’ Day and to the vets on Veterans Day… and to the USA on July Fourth… You get the picture…
Whatever you do, don’t put down your glass before the toast is complete. Also, holding your glass without drinking suggests that you don’t care for what is being said in the toast, nor are you connected to the group who is doing the toasting. Of course, if there are non-drinkers (and underage people) in the crowd, water or sparkling juice works just fine. It really is about the spirit of the action and what or who is being honored that is important here.
Think of the many times that glasses have been raised in your life. What special person, special occasion or special act determined an acknowledgment of lifting your glass? Or what about when glasses were being lifted for you? Obviously there are the very traditional toasts – weddings, anniversaries, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, birthdays. And there are acknowledgements of heroism, acts of kindness or charity, or inspirational moments.
Across the world, toasting is a major part of various cultures. The common theme is “Good health” or “Good luck”. Here is a list of various toasts –
Alsace (France) : “Gesundheit” (Health) or “S’gelt” (Reward, gift, money)
Arabic (1) : “Saha” (Health) or “Saha ala albak” (Health –be– upon your heart)
Arabic (2) / Middle Eastern : “Sahtein” (Two healths, can also be used to say “Bon appétit” or “Enjoy!”)
Armenian : “Kenats” (or “Genats” in Western Armenian, both meaning “Cheers”)
Australian English : “Scull”
Bosnian : “Nazdravlje” (For health)
Czech : “Na zdravi” (For health)
Catalan : “Xinxin” / Adapted from Hebrew “Chayyim” (Life)
Danish / Norwegian / Swedish : “Skål” (Bowl — as in old drinking glasses)
Dutch : “Proost” / From Latin “Prosit” (May it be good)
Filipino : “Mabuhay” (To life)
French (1) : “Tchin Tchin” / Adapted from Hebrew “Chayyim” (Life)
French (2) : “Santé” (Health)
German : “Prost” / From Latin “Prosit” (May it be good) – Prosit is more commonly used in Bavaria, the southeastern region of Germany. There’s another popular way to toast in Germany: “Hau weg die scheisse.” Not easily translatable. In fact, I think I’ll let you look it up ; )
Hawaiian : “Huli pau” (Good health)
Hebrew : “L’Chayyim” (To life)
Hungarian : “Egészségedre” / Also spelled “Egészségére” (To your health)
Italian (1) : “Cin Cin” / Adapted from Chinese “Ch’ing ch’ing” (Please please)
Italian (2) : “Salute” (Health)
Japanese : “Kampaï” (Health)
Mexican Spanish : “Saludcita” (To health)
Polish : “Na zdrowie” (For health)
Portuguese (1) : “Tchim Tchim” / Adapted from Hebrew “Chayyim” (Life)
Portuguese (2) : “Saúde” (Health)
Romanian : “Noroc” (Good luck)
Russian : “Na’ zdrovié” (To our health)
Scottish Gaelic : “Slàinte mhath” (Good health)
Slovak : “Na zdravie” (For health)
Spanish Castilian : “Salud” (Health)
Welsh : “Iechyd Dda” (Good health)
In Germany, toasting is very much a big part of the drinking culture. No one should start to drink from their glass until every person at the table has been toasted. And it is imperative to look directly into the other drinker’s eyes. Otherwise it is considered rude… And there is a humorous belief that it can attract bad luck – like seven years of bad sex.
And on that note, I am sending virtual toasts to each and every one of you reading this and looking you straight in the eye.
L’Chayyim! Cin cin! Xinxin! Na zdravie! Santé!
Oh… and cheers!
“Let us celebrate with wine and sweet words.” – Titus Maccius Plautus (enjoy more memorable wine quotes here.)