Reasons for raising your glass.
Whether it’s raising a glass before a meal or to celebrate a special occasion, toasting as a symbolic act to honor a moment has persevered throughout the ages. Some people perform the ritual as a mark of good manners, while others see the tradition as an important part of their cultural heritage. Regardless of the reason, toasting has become a way to inject a sense of respect and camaraderie into a social gathering.
Although no one knows the exact origins of toasting, what we do know is that celebrations involving alcohol date back to the Neolithic period. “The term ‘toast’—the act of raising a glass during a festive celebration—gained popularity in the medieval times,” explains Carolyn Panzer, director of corporate social responsibility for international alcoholic beverage company Diageo. “The name comes from the act of dropping a literal piece of spiced or charred bread into a cup or bowl of wine, either as a kind of hors d’oeuvre or to make the wine taste better.”
Nearly half the world’s population still performs toasting traditions, according to research by Diageo. Depending on where you are, the etiquette and significance of toasting can vary in form and intensity. In Japan, drinking is a social ritual linked closely to business and work and is taken very seriously. The important thing to remember is to wait for someone to say “cheers,” or kanpai, before clinking glasses and taking your first sip. When it comes to German toasts, maintaining eye contact with each person you clink glasses with and saying prost or zum wohl is a crucial part of the custom. Meanwhile, drinkers in the UK and Hungary tend to be happy with simply hoisting glasses during a toast, rather than touching rims.
“Over time, toasting traditions have been passed down through generations for many different reasons,” says Panzer. “Toasting in previous centuries was governed by a complex hierarchical etiquette. At social gatherings, glasses of wine were raised to the king, to each and every guest, and to lists of absent friends.” Although toasting is a bit more flexible these days, the convivial ritual seems to be more important than ever as a symbolic act of goodwill and solidarity when sharing a drink.