The Real Reason We Clink Glasses Before Drinking

The tradition of clinking glasses during toasts has been attributed to various explanations. One theory suggests that early Europeans believed sound could drive away evil spirits. Another belief is that clinking glasses allowed the wine to be sloshed from glass to glass, serving as a test to ensure that the beverages were not poisoned. Additionally, some claim that the clinking of glasses symbolized mutual trust among drinkers, eliminating the need to sample each other’s drinks to prove their purity.

The origin of toasting customs is often misunderstood. While the belief in scaring off evil spirits through noise-making is a long-standing tradition, the specific act of clinking glasses is a relatively new addition to toasting rituals. This practice emerged after the widespread belief in demons had faded, and the tradition of sloshing wine from one glass to another was impractical and wasteful. Additionally, the act of touching glasses during a toast has no connection to the suspicion of poisoned wine, as such occurrences were not common enough to warrant a social gesture to indicate safety from attempted murder.

The tradition of clinking glasses to toast others’ good health dates back to ancient times and has been observed in various cultures around the world. It’s believed that the act of clinking glasses originated from a time when shared drinking vessels were common. The clinking of individual cups or glasses was a way to express trust and camaraderie among people who were sharing a drink. In societies where shared drinking containers were the norm, bringing your vessel to a gathering was seen as a sign of distrust and hostility.

The term “toasting” likely came from a historical practice where a piece of spiced bread was floated in a shared drinking vessel called a “loving cup.” The host would consume the bread along with the remaining liquid after the cup had circulated among the celebrants. Although the tradition of using a shared flagon has evolved into individual drinking vessels, the act of toasting still symbolizes a sense of unity and communal connection. When a toast is made, each person raises their glass and drinks simultaneously, maintaining the spirit of togetherness and conveying well wishes to others.

The tradition of clinking glasses during toasts has a rich history and serves multiple purposes beyond just the enjoyment of wine. Before the addition of the “clink,” toasts only engaged four out of the five senses. By incorporating the sound of glasses striking each other, the experience became more multi-sensory. This addition not only enhanced the sensory experience but also highlighted the importance of physical connection in toasting.

The act of touching glasses with others emphasizes participation in the good wishes being expressed and symbolizes unity among individuals partaking in the toast. As the glasses come together, so do the people holding them, creating a sense of togetherness and solidarity.

Moreover, beyond the social aspects, there is a deeper meaning behind the clinking of glasses. The wine once unified in a single bottle, is distributed into separate glasses. Through the act of clinking, the wine is momentarily reunited with itself, signifying a brief reconnection with its original state.

Etiquette experts advise that in larger gatherings, it’s not necessary to clink glasses with every single person present. Instead, it’s appropriate to raise your glass and make eye contact with the group as a whole, ensuring that everyone feels included in the celebratory moment. This practice prevents the need to stretch across long tables and minimizes the risk of any mishaps.

Reference:

  • Poison Detection Theory:

“The Origins of Clinking Glasses: To Poison or Not to Poison?” – The History Vault. (https://www.thehistoryvault.co.uk/the-origins-of-clinking-glasses-to-poison-or-not-to-poison)

  • Evil Spirits:

“The Superstitious Origins of Clinking Glasses” – HistoryExtra. (https://www.historyextra.com/period/medieval/superstitious-origins-clinking-glasses/)

  • Symbol of Trust:

“Why Do We Clink Glasses When We Toast?” – Mental Floss. (https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/20223/why-do-we-clink-glasses-when-we-toast)

  • Shared Experience:

“The History and Meaning Behind Toasting” – VinePair. (https://vinepair.com/articles/history-of-toasting-drinking-tradition/)

  • Multisensory Experience:

“Toasting: An Exploration of the Ritual and Its Significance” – Smithsonian Magazine. (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/toasting-exploration-ritual-significance-180972634/)

  • Unity and Reconnection:

“The Cultural Significance of Clinking Glasses” – BBC Culture. (https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20201221-the-cultural-significance-of-clinking-glasses)

  • Etiquette:

“Modern Toasting Etiquette” – Emily Post. (https://emilypost.com/advice/toasting-etiquette)

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