How to Cheers in Italy!

Do you know how to “toast”? It’s more than just saying, “Cheers!” and clinking glasses. There is no better place than Rome to learn about the tradition of toasting.

When I was younger I would always toast with my friends. Even when having lunch in the school cafeteria we would say “Cheers!” and raise our cartons of milk or soda, and one by one we would tap our glasses or cartons together. Also my parents would toast at Thanksgiving dinner table, during weddings and other celebrations, and at other special meals. This is actually a very old tradition with an interesting history. Today people in Italy are continuing a tradition that originated from the kings and emperors. When you toast with a friend or family, make sure you look everyone in the eye and don’t leave anyone out.

What traditions does the community have?

To say “Cheers” and raise your glass during dinner or at lunch here in Italy is an old tradition that dates back to the time of the first Emperors and Kings of Italy. It’s a very common tradition, and not just for special occasions. People in Italy do it at the big meal of the day, which is typically lunch, and they also do it at dinner. Sometimes the glasses are touched (clinked) together during the toast.

In toasting, the person offering the toast usually wishes the other person, or everyone present, happiness, good health, a long life, or “all the best.” The friends and or family generally voice their agreement and usually raise their glasses also, and take a sip of the beverage.

It’s important for this tradition that if you clink your glass with one person, you have to clink your glass with everyone at the table even when there are lots of people. It is also very important that when you clink somebody’s glass, you look him or her in the eye. This wards off the evil eye. You know when you look at someone and you know they’re lying or hiding something? If the person has a hard time making eye contact with you, it can make you suspicious. This was very important back in the day.

As the story goes, toasting was a way to ensure that the king or emperor was not poisoned. Originally people would toast, and instead of just clinking glasses they would exchange their glasses. This way if someone was trying to poison the king or emperor, the poisoned drink would never really make it to him. If the king or emperor was still unsure they would toast again, and one by one people would exchange glasses.

What tradition did I learn about?

When I was in Rome, I learned about the proper way to toast. When I did it as a kid or even before this trip, I would tap a friend or family members glass and say cheers. What I learned in Rome is that it’s very important that you look the person your cheering in the eye. It’s considered very rude if you don’t. I also learned that you must toast with everyone at the table, not just with your friends.

Why does the community have this tradition?

In Italy eating is a big social event. You never eat alone. During the meal people are happy and want to have fun. So, toasting is a way of say “I’m happy and I want everyone here to be happy.” That’s kind of general but you get the idea. Maybe you can say, “I wish everyone that at this table eating with me good health and straight A’s on all your papers.” Ha! How about that one?

Is this tradition connected to its environment? How?

I visited Rome, the capital of Italy, this weekend, and discovered it’s a very old city. Some of the buildings are over 2,000 years old. That’s almost five times as old as the United States. The traditions are very old too, for example toasting or saying cheers. That started a way back before America had a government or traditions like Thanksgiving.

So Cheers and Good Health to you all! Talk soon!

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