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Why We Should Bring Back the Art of Toasting

Raising your glass in a toast was common from ancient Greece to fairly recently, but appears to have fallen out of favor in the 21st century, outside of weddings. The group act of drinking in unison with a common thought is a way of bonding, of communicating a sentiment, and a ritual that should be brought back. To understand the reasons why, we need to look at the history of the toast. It has gone through a few changes while keeping the same basic form.

Indeed, amongst both the Greeks and Romans, toasting could not only serve as a declaration of well wishes (and an excuse for copious drinking!), but also a provocation — a challenge. Being able to hold one’s liquor was considered a form of toughness and discipline, and a night of toasting surely tested a man’s capaciousness. Just as the Greeks who pledged their drinks to the gods expected blessings in return for their sacrifice, toasts made to one’s fellow mortals were expected to be reciprocated. One toast would beget another, and back and forth the tributes went. With each, the vessel would have to be entirely drained of its intoxicating contents; as we’ll see, merely sipping one’s drink after a toast is a modern refinement. Thus, offering a toast was sometimes a way of throwing down the gauntlet — an invitation to competition and a kind of duel; could the others match you cup for cup? Unsurprisingly, a night of toasting frequently found participants passed out in a stupor by its end.

In later eras, toasting did not automatically mean drinking more than you should. The history of toasting is followed by an elegant argument for reviving the custom at The Art of Manliness.  -Thanks, Tim!


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I remembered something from history class, concerning toasts at the Jefferson birthday celebration in April 1832. Quoting from http://www.ushistory.org/us/24e.asp :

"Many political issues separated Jackson from Calhoun, his Vice President. One was the issue of states rights. Hoping for sympathy from President Jackson, Calhoun and the other states-rights party members sought to trap Jackson into a pro-states-rights public pronouncement at a Jefferson birthday celebration in April 1832. Some of the guests gave toasts which sought to establish a connection between a states-rights view of government and nullification. Finally, Jackson's turn to give a toast came, and he rose and challenged those present, "Our Federal Union — It must be preserved." Calhoun then rose and stated, "The Union — next to our liberty, the most dear!" Jackson had humiliated Calhoun in public. The nullification crisis that would follow served as the last straw. Jackson proved that he was unafraid to stare down his enemies, no matter what position they might hold."
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If toasting, in the style they promote, were common, then there would be more pictures of it in the public domain. Since so many of those pictures are for simple toasts (or not toasts at all), I argue that that means that their understanding of history is wrong. In addition, of course, that there's nothing intrinsically "manly" about toasting.
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I don't doubt that your research is correct, but I can tell you it's difficult to find enough public domain images to illustrate an article of this length, without having to make sure they are perfectly accurate for the text they appear near.
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They are spreading it thick with the "manly", and they don't care to respect the history. For example, the image of the oil painting is "Hip, Hip, Hurrah!" by Peder Severin Krøyer, based on a party at the house of two artists who had just moved to the artist colony at Skagen, Denmark. The title says it all - it's not a oratory toast like the article wants.

The picture under "Why We Should Bring Back Toasting" is not from a toast at all. Elsewhere it's titled: "Patrons at a Harlem bar on 135th Street toast joyously after black world heavyweight champion Joe Louis’s first-round knockout of Max Schmeling at Yankee Stadium, 1938".

The picture under "verbal souvenir" is of Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Multiple sources say it was from the traditional Saturday evening toast in the Navy: "To our sweethearts and wives", with the unofficial response "may they never meet". Again, not a long 'manly' oratory. The British Navy also changed it a few years ago to "Our families", as many women also serve these days.

Personally, I would rather bring back drinking songs.
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