Cheers! Here’s how to toast

New York - Especially during the holidays, toasting can make even a meal at a fast-food restaurant a special occasion. It can impart a festive air to the gathering and has a way of bringing those present together.

One of my best memories is a pre-dawn toast in London, after flying in from the US. I had taken the “Flight From Hell” that arrived nearly a day late, due to a variety of mechanical problems.

File photo: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and President Jacob Zuma, raise a toast at the start of the state banquet at Buckingham Palace during Zuma's 2010 official state visit to London. Credit: AP

My client gamely picked me up at the airport. We stopped for breakfast at some dingy travellers’ restaurant, the only one open at that hour.

When our orange juice arrived, he stood and said, “To Mary, welcome. You are worth waiting for.” Never mind that we looked silly. His warmth went a long way to defuse an anxious situation and put me at ease. That toast motivated me even more to do my very best in serving the client.

Here are some guidelines for toasting:

The host proposes a toast, often welcoming a guest, at the beginning of the meal. The toast may also occur in the middle of the meal, when the host raises his glass to the guest of honour, who properly should be seated on his right.

If the host has stage fright, it is perfectly fine to have his or her spouse make the toast.

A wonderful example of a toast is one given at a dinner for Nobel Laureates in the state dining room at the White House.

President John F Kennedy rose and said, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, ever gathered at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined here alone.”

You don’t have to be that clever. A typical welcoming toast might be: “Thank you all for being here to share one another’s good company and this good food. Welcome and enjoy!”

At the end of the meal, before dessert, the same host might rise and toast the guest of honour, if he hasn’t already done so: “I am so pleased that you all could be here to welcome my dear friend Jane, who has come all the way from Rome to spend the holidays with us.”

Or, be even more specific, “Let’s welcome Lee, friend extraordinaire, triathlete, surgeon and theologian. To Lee.”

One-word toasts, such as the Danish skoal, (meaning “health”) are pretty much universally accepted as symbols of welcome.

It’s a nice idea to toast people in their native tongue. Just be sure to learn the correct pronunciation.

Here are some other things you should know about toasting:

In our shrinking world, you might discover that people from other countries are more comfortable making toasts because it is a more natural part of their culture than ours. If you know that you are expected to give a toast in a formal setting, by all means rehearse it.

In fact, say your toast over and over to your mirror when you are alone. – Reuters