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Since New Year’s Eve is the toastiest holiday on the calendar, there’s no better time to consider what the rest of the world is thinking while they’re clinking. And since wanderlustful readers might be ringing in the new year anywhere from New York City to Rome this season, it’s best to know how the locals celebrate. Here, we break down the most unique toasting traditions from around the world, so you can be prepared wherever you’re pouring yourself a glass.
Where Do Toasting Drinks Come From?
“The custom of drinking a ‘health’ to the prosperity, happiness, luck or good health of another dates back to antiquity—and, perhaps, into prehistory,” writes author Paul Dickson in his book Toasts: Over 1,500 of the Best Toasts, Sentiments, Blessings and Graces. He follows the drinking ritual back to the ancient Hebrews, Persians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Saxons and Huns (apparently Attila was a fan). “Although people had been drinking to one another for centuries, it wasn’t called ‘toasting’ until the seventeenth century, when it was customary to place a piece of toast or a crouton in the drink.”
The specific habit of tapping drinking glasses together has several potential origins. Some practitioners believed the practice warded off evil spirits by creating a bell-like noise, Dickson writes, while others thought that clinking cups—and splashing liquid between two vessels—was a means of proving that one person wasn’t trying to poison the other. But in truth, nobody quite knows the true origin of toasting drinks.