Sometimes a word said and a glass of wine drunk will start you thinking.
So it was with me and the word “wassail,” a Danish term which means “be of good health”. The word entered the English lexicon in the 5th century with the Saxons, Hengist and Horsa, who came to help the British Celts fight the Picts. Horsa died fighting and Hengist stayed. The story goes that Rowen, daughter of Hengist, offered a golden cup filled with wine to the Brititsh King Vortigern, saying,
“Lord King, Wassail!”
The word was new to Vortigern, the wine was pleasing, and so to was Rowen. They marry and the next thing you know, Hengist is the very first king of England, or at least of Kent, where the Saxons and their cousins the Angles settled.
In time the wassail was remembered as the wine and not the toast, and now it is drunk and not often said.
I dwell too long on wassail. What do other countries use for toasts?
In France they say, Bonne sante. The French being the French and idiosyncratic don’t pronounce the first e and accent the second “e” to make the long eeee sound.
In Spain and the Spanish speaking countries of the western hemisphere, they say “Brindar.” Literally, meaning “offer” but that doesn’t express the thought, which is a hope that the recipient of the toast may receive all that is good and necessary. Brevity, the mark of a good toast and good sense.
“Expresar un bien deseado a alguien o algo a la vez que se levanta la copa con vino o licor antes de beber.”
In Russian, they say “Prosit!” but they say it Cyrillean, просит, which is hard to say, meaning I beg or pray.
In German, they also say, “Prosit” or “Ein Prosit” which translates as “Cheers!”
Cheers, my friends, it all means the same.
I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.