When you stop and think about any tradition, you realise how bizarre the whole thing is. (Bring a tree inside the house and cover it with plastic while singing about a farm in Bethlehem? Fold cardboard in half, stick a pink heart on it and wax lyrical about a religious saint you couldn’t pick out of a line-up if you’re life depended on it?)
Raising a toast is no different (as evidenced by the fact that there’s not a slice of bread to be seen.)
However odd the notion of holding a glass of wine or beer in the air and saying “Cheers!”, I’d never given the matter any thought until I lived in France and realised how complicated the procedure could be.
In France, saying cheers is not enough (well, it’s santé for a start, which means health rather than happiness.) No, you must maintain eye contact, you must clink glasses individually with each person in your group and you must not cross anyone else’s arm as you do it. Time consuming and tedious.
So, why does everyone bother? Turns out there’s a pretty severe penalty for messing this one up.
“Seven years of bad sex,” said every Frenchman and woman I met.
So, there you have it. Don’t drink in France unless you’re willing to risk your future.
PS – I’ve also learned that the same rule applies in Spain. I wonder – is this superstition rampant across Europe? Across the world?! I wonder whether Britain is the only place that throws eye contact to the wind…
Abigail King is a writer and photographer who swapped a career as a doctor for a life on the road. Now published by Lonely Planet, the BBC, CNN, National Geographic Traveler & more, she feels most at home experimenting here: covering unusual journeys, thoughtful travel and luxury on www.insidethetravellab.com