Na Zdrowie – How to Raise a Toast & Say Cheers in Polish
Whether you come to Poland for an ordinary trip, the wedding of your Polish friends, or a wild stag party, it’s good to know how to raise a toast and shout emphatically, “Na zdrowie.” But let’s start with the short story.
The History of Toasting
Toasting is a widespread custom, and according to National Geographic, all toasts have their roots in ancient Greeks: “Historians guess that the toast most likely originated with the Greek libation, the custom of pouring out a portion of one’s drink in honor of the gods”. Toasting later becomes fun and touching ritual that made drinking alcohol an expression of mutual respect, brotherhood, and goodwill.
In Poland, the tradition of toasting was apparently initiated during the reign of King Sigismund I. As in all of medieval Europe, toasting had its own established order and procedure. Usually, the toast was raised to the King, Queen, and noblemen. While eating the so-called heavy meat dishes, the wine was served on the table in wealthy Polish homes during the feast. Over time, toasting became an integral part of banquets, and revelers often drunk from a single goblet that circled around the table.
Interestingly, some noblemen often claimed that no one was worthy of drinking from the same glass. Hence, they sometimes threw the glass on the ground or smashed it on their own head. Despite the passage of the years, the tradition of toasting is still alive.
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How to Toast in Poland
In modern times, toasts have become an element of etiquette, an integral part of celebrations such as birthdays, New Years celebrations, or weddings. According to many experts, the toast should not be raised with vodka, but that rule is consciously and regularly broken in Poland. Of course, you come across people raising a toast with champagne or wine on formal events such as weddings, although vodka is the ruler at all informal parties.
For instance, in a Polish wedding tradition, the first toast is raised with champagne by the bride’s father. After him, it can be done by the groom’s father or the groom himself, then the witnesses or seniors of both families, and so on. Beautiful toasts given, for example, by a witness, straight from the heart, containing anecdotes and thoughts about newlyweds, are still rare in our country. In Poland, funny poems or folk songs are most popular, often delivered not by the guests themselves but by the wedding party’s leader.
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Tips & Facts
- Don’t Toast Before the Host.
- Take a look around and make sure everyone’s glass is full before you raise yours for the toast.
- Remember when you toast and clink glasses, with someone senior to you, always have your glass lower than theirs.
- If someone reaches towards you for a clink, don’t hesitate to reciprocate.
- If it’s you making a toast, give a speech standing up and facing the recipient. Pick a glass at the end and ask the others to join the toast.
- Don’t drink a toast, and don’t stand when the toast is dedicated to you.
- You should always stand when you toast, even if you are in a small group of friends.
- Do not refuse to participate in toasts – it is more polite and more acceptable to toast with a soft drink or even an empty glass.
- Guests are welcome to raise the toast.
Polish variety of cheers is “Na Zdrowie,” which means – drink (to) someone’s health, to drink a toast to someone, wishing him good health.
Usually, Poles say that before sharing a drink, though, we say that phrase also when someone sneezes. If you want to say I drink to your health, say: ” Pije za Twoje Zdrowie.” If you would like to learn more polish phrases and impress locals get yourself a book.
Best Polish Toasts
- Chluśniem, bo uśniem – Let’s drink up or we’ll all doze off.
- Zdrowie pięknych pań – To the health of the beautiful ladies.
- No, bo wodka stygnie – Hey, vodka is cooling down.
- Na druga noge – To the second leg.
- Za tych co nie mogą – For those who cannot drink.
- Do dna – Bottoms up.
- 100 lat – A hundred years.