Cheers! Salud! Chin chin! Bottoms up! L’chayim! Schol! Pura Vida! Gesondheid! Proost! Topa! Zum wohl! Eviva! Balle!

These are some of the most familiar toasts from around the world. Many more exist, though. Each one, in its own language, bestows wishes of health, wealth, and happiness on the honoree.

Toasts are an expected part of many celebrations, especially when a particular person or couple is being celebrated in some way. On these occasions, toasts are more personal and a bit lengthier than those above. Even so, they’re no reason to get up-tight and tongue-tied. Kind words and warm thoughts are what count, not poetry or oratory skill.

There’s no way to know who proposed the first toast but historians believe the custom started as a sacrificial offering to the gods so long ago there are no records of it. Others say poison control is the reason the custom of clinking glasses together got started. The host may plan to do away with a drinking buddy but poison gets mixed into all glasses when they’re clinked together to seal the ‘blessing.’ A drink of such a mixed brew jeopardizes the whole party; clinking glasses together spares everyone.We invite others to raise a toast because of the common tradition of raising a glass of a celebratory beverage while the blessing is being stated. Once the blessing is bestowed, participants and honorees gently touch glasses before taking a drink or finishing the whole glass, as local custom dictates. The communal raising of glasses is a visual signal that everyone participating agrees with the good words being spoken. When the party is too large to realistically touch every glass, such as at large wedding receptions, graduation parties, and the like, it’s perfectly acceptable to raise the glass toward the honoree(s), especially if done so with a smile.

These customs probably became toasts during the 17th century when spiced toast was a common flavoring agent for alcoholic beverages. Wassail, the warm winter holiday punch originating in early England, is often associated with lavish toasting. In its original form, warm Wassail was poured into a cup containing a piece of spicy toasted bread for added flavor.

It’s considered bad luck to participate in a toast with an empty glass. People who don’t typically drink alcoholic beverages will sometimes break protocol and enjoy a toast but teetotalers often will not. To include everyone, a conscientious host will have a special non-alcoholic beverage, such as sparkling cider or non-alcoholic champagne, set aside for these guests.

Fancy words are nice when toasting but personalized words are more appreciated. The Irish enjoy a good dose of humor when toasting and peoples of Eastern Europe often share the toast, with one person then the next offering up a line or two. Germans look into the eyes of all toasting participants before drinking. Scandinavians enjoy intimate toasts with no words spoken at all. Instead, they simply meet the eyes of the honoree, even if across the room, smile warmly, and raise a glass toward the honored person.

Some families, social clubs, and organizations have their own toasting traditions but there’s no reason a new tradition can’t be started. Some of them are quite eloquent but others are shockingly bawdy.

In the United States, wedding toasts are a very common tradition, usually offered by the best man to the newlyweds during the reception following the wedding ceremony. There are no limits, though, to who or how many toasts can be offered for any given occasion. Many wedding toasts are begun by the best man but other members of the wedding party offer their own wishes in turn.

If any rules govern all toasts, they are the wish for good luck and long life and pledges of loyalty and love. If you are the person offering the toast, have fun and speak from the heart. It’s no more complicated than that.