By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Toasts to health have long history
francis bond
Francis Bond lives in Richmond Hill, where he occasionally writes columns about things that interest him. - photo by File photo

When families meet and sit down for dinner, there is usually a spontaneous occurrence: drinking a toast.
Why do we do this? After giving thanks for the meal, why don’t we just begin eating? I believe it’s inherent in all of us to honor each other. There’s one ancient manner; some may call it a ritual or a tradition. We lift our challis of wine and say, “A toast to our very good health.”
According to history, the idea of drinking a toast may have originated simultaneously among several ancient societies. The ancient Greeks may have played a role in a ritualistic practice of making offerings to their gods as well as drinking a toast to each other’s health. What better way could humans show respect for their fellow man than to dedicate a drink to each other and take it into themselves?
The Roman society considered the practice of drinking to the health of others so important that the Senate passed a law that all Roman citizens must drink to Emperor Augustus at every meal. It was thought to be the honorable thing to do. So this practice probably continued from that point in time down through the centuries.
Human society always has had a habit of establishing customs and traditions around food. During ancient times, in the course of all this, there was a story circulating about a fear of being poisoned during the tradition of toasting. So, in order to be safe, by extending arms and clinking the glasses, the liquid would spill over into each glass. If any poisoning was being contemplated, the one with such notions also would be affected.
As interesting as this historical rumor was, there was absolutely no evidence to back up such a myth.
There is another twist to the tradition of toasting. How did the term “toast” get in the act? It has been noted in history that the term originated from one of Shakespeare’s plays. A character in the play called for a lot of wine with a piece of toast in it. Today, that’s an absolutely ridiculous request. Who would ruin a glass of good wine by dipping a piece of toast in it?  
Regardless, it was a popular thing to do, the reason being to improve the quality of wine at that time. Placing a piece of toast in wine was thought to soak up some of the acidity and improve the flavor. Today, dipping toast in wine is unheard of. Nevertheless, the term “toast” seemed to have stuck to the tradition of honoring our fellow man.
We have heard of the term “toastmaster.” Down through the centuries, the act of toasting became so popular at social gatherings that people were getting intoxicated, and toasting slowly became an excuse to get drunk. Everyone would walk around extending his arm with a challis of alcohol to honor his guests. It eventually got to the point where a person was appointed to act as sort of a referee. That person would control the time to be honored so as to control the drinking of alcohol. That person assumed the name “toastmaster.”
So today, although there may or may not be a toastmaster present, we meet, lift our challis of wine and say, “To your very good health.”

Sign up for our E-Newsletters