Proposing a toast is quite old fashioned, but people notice when it’s missing from any event that involves a good drink. Even a simple raise of the glass in an international symbol for peace and good wishes, but where did this ritual come from and what is the etiquette?
Why do we toast to celebrate?
Toasting is an art that’s understood the world over and it could have originated in a variety of places. It is said by some that in the 17th century, tasting came from a traditional of masking the (then) rather unbalanced wines with the flavourings from spiced toast dropped into the glass. Another possible explanation is that the clinking of the glasses that went along with the toast was to knock wine from one glass into another, thus proving that no one had poisoned their neighbour. How charming. One, slightly spurious story from 1709 even suggests that the first toast happened when a beautiful lady was seen bathing in the spa waters of bath by a curious gentleman, who then proceeded to fill a cup with the spa water and drink to her health. We’re not entirely convinced by that. The most logical origination for proposing a toast however, is that is that it began, as many things do, with religion and a cup of sacrificial holy wine, held aloft to God along with a prayer.
So long is the history of the toast that many are the superstitions that go along with it. The rule that a toast should never be made with water goes back to the US Navy. Doing so would doom the honoured party to a watery death. The British Royal Navy have a host of traditions when it comes to toasting, including sitting down as there was not enough headroom to stand and having a different, specific toast for every day of the week.
A toast with the most: the rules
It is a great honour to be tasked with a making a toast, so you must respect certain rules both as the person proposing or one of those responding. Traditionally, a toast is announced by clinking a glass to get people’s attention, then standing a moment while everyone quiets down. This is your moment, so take a break, look around the room and ‘cast your net’ as you compose your first, all-important sentence. Speak slowly and clearly, catching eye contact where you can. As a guest, when you hear that clink, be quiet immediately and don’t sip the toast wine until the speaker gestures for you to do so by raising and sipping his own.
Grab a glass and say ‘cheers’ in as many languages as there are nationalities in the room and maybe some more, just for fun...
″Cheers″ – English
″Prost″ – German
Translated as ‘to health’
″Santé″ – French
″Sláinte″ – Gaelic
″Salud″ – Spanish
″Na zdrowie″ – Polish
Literally ‘dry cup’, i.e. ‘bottoms up’
″干杯″ gānbēi - Chinese
″乾杯″ ‘kanpai’ – Japanese