Monday, December 30, 2013

Blessing or Toasting the New Year

When you are ringing in the New Year 2014 this Tuesday night and make a toast for good health and happiness, you may not need to know what I am sharing here.  As a member of Toastmasters International, I have been wondering where the ideas of toasting came from.  Then, we had an article in the December 2013 Magazine  on toasting and I felt inspired to read more about it.
“Here's to the bright New Year
 And a fond farewell to the old;
 Here's to the things that are yet to come
 And to the memories that we hold.”

What is a Toast?
A toast is a ritual in which a drink is taken as an expression of honor or goodwill. The term may be applied to the person or thing so honored, the drink taken, or the verbal expression accompanying the drink. Thus, a person could be "the toast of the evening," for whom someone "proposes a toast" to congratulate and for whom a third person "toasts" in agreement.

There are many occasions in life to share a toast: the birth of a newborn, weddings, good byes, birthdays, or any party.  The custom of drinking to the health, prosperity, happiness, or good luck of another is not new; it rather has a long history.  The curious practice of raising our drink containers is one of the most ancient of these.

“A Toast or Sentiment very frequently excites good humor and revives languid conversation; often does it, when properly applied, cool the heat of resentment, and blunt the edge of animosity.   A well applied Toast is acknowledged, universally, the flame of acrimony, when season and reason oft used their efforts to no purpose.”
~ Craig Harrison, DTM

Why Toasting?
But it wasn't always called a toast. The term didn't come about until the late 17th century. In the same way you throw a lime in tequila, it was customary to plop a piece of toast or crouton in a drink, Dickson says. Think of it as an early form of a cocktail snack.

And just in case you are wondering where the English phrase "toast" comes from, it comes from the practice of floating a piece of burnt toast on top of the wine of the loving cup. The reason for this was that the toast took away some of the acidity of the wine.

History of Toasting
Ironically, the cheerful clinking of a friend's glass before drinking evolved from one of the darker practices of the distant past. The custom dates back to the Middle Ages, when people were so distrustful of one another that they weren't above poisoning anyone they perceived as an enemy.  As a safeguard, drinkers first poured a bit of wine into each other's glass, acting as mutual "tasters." Trustworthy friends, however, soon dispensed with the tastings and merely clinked their glasses instead. This custom is said by some to explain why "to your health" is the most common toast worldwide.  Some other historians hold that clinking glasses provided the noise that would keep evil spirits at bay.

Cheers - Why do we click the glasses?
There can be various answers to this question but the common notion that this was done so as to spill a little wine into each other's glasses thereby ensuring that the drinks are not poisoned is not true. This custom is relatively new. Touching your glasses gently is done to incorporate the sense of hearing in the processes of making a toast. Earlier only four out of our 5 senses were gratified.
What to say in a toast?
Here is a link for some sample toasts, blessings and graces: Chosen words for Toasts

For those who are looking for formal toasts for a special occasion, here is a whole book by the master Paul Dickson: Toasts

For the rest of us, let just enjoy this New Year’s Eve with a cheer of goodwill and blessing for the New Year 2014.  I hope and pray that the New Year will take us into better circumstances, and we can create health and prosperity for our families and country.


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