Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why Do We Toast?

When someone gets a new job, we clink glasses. When we get a raise, we raise a glass, and toast. For New Year’s Eve, we raise several glasses and “ring” in the New Year.

We assign an important status to toasting, be it humorous words or thoughtful messages, just ask any best man who’s had to give the official wedding toast, or the office mate, put on the spot for a toast at the retirement party.

Toasting is a custom that is centuries old. A ritual where we generally express goodwill and best wishes for positive things to happen to the guest of honor, or to celebrate special events and holidays. Toasts can be somber, romantic, affectionate, funny, bawdy, even rude.

Drinking to “one’s health” began in ancient Greece as a way to make sure you were not being poisoned. Simply slipping a bit of poison into a drink was an easy way to be rid of an enemy, with no one the wiser.

With this in mind, it soon became expected for the host to pour the wine into a decanter and take the first drink. If he survived, you could drink “to your health.”

But what if the poison was in your cup? Soon revelers were spilling wine into each other’s cups as a way to make sure everyone was imbibing with the same wine. This evolved into the clinking of glasses when a toast is made; a symbolic sharing of the wine and good wishes – to every one’s health.

Another idea is that we began clinking glasses as a way of scaring off evil spirits, possibly those same demons that caused drunkenness…

There is also a theory that we clink glasses as a way of fulfilling the fifth sense – hearing – since seeing, smelling, touching, and tasting are already covered in the wine drinking experience.

Yet another premise is that after the communal cup had gone by the wayside, we touched glasses to express that we were still connected and sharing this experience together.

The Romans put a twist on the practice by adding a piece of spiced bread (toast) to the wine cup as a means of soaking up unwanted flavors and smells while adding a spicy flavor.

In 16th Century England, drinking a “toast” meant you were drinking to good health with a wine that literally had spiced toast in it.  This tradition continued through the 17th and 18th centuries when it became chic to drink a toast to someone’s health, wealth, or beauty.

Even today, there are rules regarding toasting.

Toasting Etiquette:

• The person giving the toast should be standing

• Everyone should have a glass as the toast is given

• Holding your glass but not drinking at least a sip from it is ill mannered

• To refuse a glass or put your glass down before the toast is finished is considered to be rude

• Inverting your glass is very discourteous to the guest of honor

• Tapping a glass with silverware to get attention is considered uncouth

And there are rules for the guest of honor such as never drink after being toasted. Instead he or she should stand, nod to the group, and offer their thanks.

But remember to clink your glass with someone else’s after a toast. Not only does it produce a pleasing sound, it creates a physical connection between members of the group, and their shared good wishes. If you are in too large of a group to touch glasses with everyone, simply make eye contact and you have created that connection.

Most Famous Toasts

There are so many well-known toasts, but most everyday toasts are spur of the moment well wishes to commemorate a special moment. Just remember to keep them simple, sincere, and succinct.

If you find yourself in need of a few words – Here are some suggestions:

A Toast to Friendship:

 "May friendships, like wine, improve, as time advances.
And may we always have old wine, old friends, and young cares.”

A Toast to Happiness:

"May neighbors respect you,
Trouble neglect you,
The angels protect you,
And heaven accept you."

A Toast to Health:

"May you live as long as you like,
And have all you like as long as you live."

An Irish Blessing
May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And may ye be in heaven a half-hour
Afore the devil knows ye're dead!

“Life, alas, is very fine,
So up with your glass, 
Down with the wine.”

~ Joy