A History Of Clinking Glasses

Why do we clink our wine glasses together before we drink? No one knows exactly — but there are theories behind this high-spirited practice and they lie in a darker, more dangerous world than ours.

One theory is that during the Middle Ages, a time of chaos and mistrust, glasses were clinked together so that wine sloshed between cups in order to prove that one drinker wasn't trying to poison the other. Another thought is that glasses were clinked together to create a noise that would scare away evil spirits lurking nearby. Many societies all over the world, including ours, practice some kind of noise-making to scare away demons — bells rung on a wedding day, shouting on the New Year — and perhaps the clinking of glasses was meant to serve the same purpose. A third theory is that the clink completes the wine experience. It is a common saying that wine should fulfill all five senses — its color, aroma, body, and taste fulfill four of the five senses, and the clinking of glasses supplies the fifth. The last theory, and the one that holds the most sway today, is that clinking glasses is a symbolic tradition from the days when everyone at a gathering drank from the same cup. Passing around a single cup was a way of bringing a group together symbolically and physically (as well as saving on dishware in an era before dishwashers and cheap glassware!). Nowadays everyone drinks from his or her own glass, but the symbolism is still present in the tradition of clinking glasses together. Not only are we physically bringing our glasses together, but we are cementing a bond of unity and companionship.

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