A gesture as simple as it is engaging: the toast is a true ritual of happiness and sharing. Raising your glass and bringing it closer to another has been much more than a sign of good luck over the centuries.
How did this tradition start?
The ritual of raising glasses has very ancient origins. In the Assyrian-Babylonian era, stories of toasts made as a sign of devotion and gratitude to the gods are documented by finds, bas-reliefs and engravings.
Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, Greeks and Romans transformed this ritual into something similar to what we see nowadays. Drinking 'to someone’s health' derives from the ancient religious rite of drinking in honor of the gods at ceremonial banquets of Greeks and Romans.
In the 2nd century A.D., the Latin author Apuleius wrote:
«The first glass is for thirst; the second for joy, the third for pleasure; the fourth, for madness" handing down to us a classic toast in Ancient Rome that is still valid today.
The way of toasting, in fact, has not changed over time: the Romans used to raise their glasses to wish health and all the best to the guests and those present. Each country then followed this tradition adding some peculiar traits.
In China, for example, the cheers ritual is called "Ganbei", which literally means "to dry the glass". The oldest person raises the glass more than the other people and drinks it all in one gulp, placing the empty glass upside down, showing there is nothing left in it.
The Japanese version of "Ganbei" is "Kanpai" which adds some features, such as the good rule that another person must fill the glass, to demonstrate hospitality and empathy. Furthermore, the glass must be held up with both hands while it is poured, directing the attention to whoever is serving us, showing respect.
In Brazil it is common to order a large bottle to pour into very small glasses; a bizarre tradition that is dictated by a practical reason: in this way the drink does not heat up.
In Peru, drinking together is a gesture of intimacy, trust and esteem: everyone toasts and drinks from a single glass, alternating.
In past times, wine was accompanied by bread to reduce its acidity, and in England it still happens to see a piece of bread in the glasses. It is precisely from this custom that the English verb "to toast" derives.
Georgia is unquestionably the region that has taken this tradition to heart the most: it is customary to toast up to 20 or 30 times per meal and involve any foreign guests invited for lunch or dinner. This may be a bit too much!