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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
Beth's Weekly Moultrie Observer Column - Week 44
(This appears here courtesy of The Moultrie Observer)

We do so many things without thinking about why we do them.
What made me think of things like this was a formal dinner I attended the other evening....when toasts were made to our health and loved ones in the spirit of giving and hospitality. I got to wondering about toasts. With a little research, I learned that our custom of a "toast to your good health" has less than hospitable beginnings. It seems that the original source of this tradition comes from the practice of drinking first to show that the wine - or whatever - was not poisoned! This little ceremony would predispose others to be more friendly, knowing that the drink offered would not kill them.

We know that neither Greek or Roman folk would pass a cup of wine to a friend without first having tasted it to prove its safety. This act of sharing the drink and proving its harmlessness led to a sort of pledge of friendship and amity, much like the old custom of "breaking bread" together. This soon led to making oaths or other pledges with food or drink and the whole cycle of toasting began from then until now.

Other sources say that the tradition o drinking to the health of someone evolved from the ancient rights of remembering the dead or the gods. The Greeks even poured some wine for the gods, as a form of invitation to join in, and this was called the libation. From the Goths, scholars say, we get the exclamation, "Health to you" shortened to "Hail" as in "Hail and hearty." Our current word, "hole" is closely related to the word "heal" through this ancient connection. "Health" in this scenario, bing part of being "ha'l" or sound in body.

The Anglo-Saxons outdie our Gothic ancestors by using Old English. "Wes hael" (be well) for a friendly greeting. When engaged in various ceremonies, it was not uncommon to be "waes haeled" by one's friends. That's where the familiar "wassail" of today comes from, the Anglo Saxon greeting that wished you well. As our ancestors seldom had enough goblets or glasss to go round at large gatherings, a common cup or bowl was passed round. This reinforced the tradition of drinking to one's health, especially when the host was required to partake of the drink first. This custom led to our concept of buying "a round for the House" or a "round of drinks."

The common bowl or cup also required tht the right and left hand neighbors of the holder stand up, a tradition which bgan with the need for protection against assassination. The ettiquette of the drink may have had lurid beginnings, but it was surely very practical.

Remember please, if you have a family reunion, a Colquitt County are query,have written a historical or genealogical book or family history...please write to me at PO Box 2693, Moultrie, GA 31776-2693. I'll be glad to include your news right here.

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