The origin of the English word "toast"in the sense of "drink a toast to someone"has several explanations. According to most sources, a drinking "toast" (a word also used in German) is actually related to roasted bread, aka toast. Webster's says the word is derived "from the use of toasted spiced bread to flavor the wine [during a toast], and the notion that the person honored also added flavor." Other sources claim that the word is derived from the 18th century English custom of covering a glass of hot spiced wine with a slice of toast as it was passed around the table. Each person lifted the toast, took a sip of wine, said a few words, and passed the glass on. When the glass reached the person being "toasted," the honoree got to eat the toast.
The German equivalents of "Cheers!" or "Bottoms up!" are Prost! or Zum Wohl! But longer, more formal toasts (Trinksprüche, (kurze) Tischreden) are common on special occasions such as marriage, retirement, or a birthday. A birthday toast almost always includes Alles Gute zum Geburtstag! (or nowadays even an English "Happy Birthday!"), but a real birthday toast would expand on that with more good wishes, such as this humorous jab: "Hoffentlich hast du soviel Spaß an deinem Geburtstag, dass du ihn von nun an jährlich feierst! Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!" ("I hope you have so much fun on your birthday that you'll celebrate it annually from now on! Happy birthday!")
The Irish seem to be a bountiful and universal source of toasts and good wishes. Germans have borrowed many Irish sayings like the well-known "May the road rise to meet you..." Although it is often used by German-speakers in English, there are German translations. This is one German version (author unknown) that I think comes closer than most...
Möge dir dein Weg leicht werden
Möge dir der Wind immer von hinten kommen
Möge dir die Sonne warm ins Gesicht scheinen
Möge dir ein sanfter Regen auf die Felder fallen
und bis wir uns wiedersehen
möge Gott dich in seiner Hand halten.
Germans also like to send shorter greetings as SMS (short message service) text to each other on their Handys (mobile phones). There are many Web sites in German with sample SMS texts that can also be used for toasts. Here's a typical example:
Die allerbesten Geburtstagswünsche send/wünsch ich dir,
sie kommen vom Herzen, sie kommen von mir.
You can find the full English and German for these and other toasts and good wishes on the next page!
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