We do so many things
without thinking about why we do them.
What made me think of things like this was a formal dinner I attended the
other evening....when toasts were made to our health and loved ones in the
spirit of giving and hospitality. I got to wondering about toasts. With a
little research, I learned that our custom of a "toast to your good
health" has less than hospitable beginnings. It seems that the original
source of this tradition comes from the practice of drinking first to show
that the wine - or whatever - was not poisoned! This little ceremony would
predispose others to be more friendly, knowing that the drink offered
would not kill them.
We know that neither Greek or Roman folk would pass a cup of wine to a
friend without first having tasted it to prove its safety. This act of
sharing the drink and proving its harmlessness led to a sort of pledge of
friendship and amity, much like the old custom of "breaking bread"
together. This soon led to making oaths or other pledges with food or
drink and the whole cycle of toasting began from then until now.
Other sources say that the tradition o
drinking to the health of someone evolved from the ancient rights of
remembering the dead or the gods. The Greeks even poured some wine for the
gods, as a form of invitation to join in, and this was called the
libation. From the Goths, scholars say, we get the exclamation, "Health to
you" shortened to "Hail" as in "Hail and hearty." Our current word, "hole"
is closely related to the word "heal" through this ancient connection.
"Health" in this scenario, bing part of being "ha'l" or sound in body.
The Anglo-Saxons outdie our Gothic ancestors
by using Old English. "Wes hael" (be well) for a friendly greeting. When
engaged in various ceremonies, it was not uncommon to be "waes haeled" by
one's friends. That's where the familiar "wassail" of today comes from,
the Anglo Saxon greeting that wished you well. As our ancestors seldom had
enough goblets or glasss to go round at large gatherings, a common cup or
bowl was passed round. This reinforced the tradition of drinking to one's
health, especially when the host was required to partake of the drink
first. This custom led to our concept of buying "a round for the House" or
a "round of drinks."
The common bowl or cup also required tht the right and left hand neighbors
of the holder stand up, a tradition which bgan with the need for
protection against assassination. The ettiquette of the drink may have had
lurid beginnings, but it was surely very practical.
Remember please, if you have a family reunion,
a Colquitt County are query,have written a historical or genealogical book
or family history...please write to me at PO Box 2693, Moultrie, GA
31776-2693. I'll be glad to include your news right here.