If the ancient Greeks and Romans could be magically transported to modern times, chances are strong that much of our current customs would register as foreign. But one particular custom that's part and parcel of New Year’s Eve celebrations across the globe might feel more familiar to our hypothetical time travelers.
Historians differ as to the origins of the toast, but the concept of toasting to one’s own and others’ health is evident in the ancient Greek author Homer’s ‘Odyssey,’ which was written in the eighth century BCE. The ‘Odyssey’ is considered one of the most significant works inn the history of Western literature, and in it Ulysses raises a glass and drinks to the health of Achilles.
But the ancient Greeks were not the only ones to emphasize toasting. In fact, during the reign of Emperor Augustus, who was the first official Roman emperor and reigned from 27 BC to AD 14, the Senate decreed that everyone must drink to Augustus at every meal.
Since ancient times, various traditions have incorporated raising a glass, whether it’s filled with wine, champagne or another beverage. This tradition, now known as ‘toasting,’ might be employed to pay homage to a particular individual, wish goodwill upon an individual or individuals (such as at a wedding) or simply in celebration of a special event or day, which is the case when the clock strikes 12 midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Regardless of who was the first person to raise a glass to honor or celebrate a special individual or occasion, there’s no denying this much-enjoyed tradition has a very, very lengthy history.