The tradition of giving thanks for bountiful harvests has been around for thousands of years, probably from the dawn of agriculture. Harvest festivals and thanksgiving celebrations have been recorded by peoples such as the ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, Chinese, Greeks and Romans.
The Etiquette Scholar tells us the practice of friends toasting one another dates back to the Middle Ages. It resulted from people’s distrust of each other. Poisoning was so common that, as a cautionary measure, drinkers poured a bit of wine into each other’s glass to allow them to be “tasters” for each other. Of course friends who trusted each other sufficiently merely clinked glasses. As to the word “toast,” Elizabethan England’s ale houses usually put spiced toast in the bottom of an ale or wine glass to flavor it.
How To Give A Heartfelt Toast
Key to the celebration of Thanksgiving are two verbal rituals, the grace, spoken before dinner, and the giving of toasts before the drinking begins. George Yen, the 2013-2014 president of Toastmasters International, says the best way to express a message of gratitude is from the heart. “Thank people you care about, share personal examples of what you’re grateful for, perhaps offer a quote if the words seem relevant.” William Arthur Ward said, “Feeling gratitude and not sharing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
The Toastmasters International Media Center gives tips on how to give heartfelt thanks for friends, family and well-being:
Reflect and Remember. Give an original, sincere toast that’s appropriate for the occasion. For Thanksgiving that should include thanks to family members and guests and for things you are grateful for.
Be Brief. A toast should not last over three minutes. Any toast longer than that will begin to lose the group’s attention. It should begin along the lines of, “Let me express gratitude…,” “I take this opportunity to thank…,” or “May I take a moment to salute…”
Use humor if it seems appropriate and be sure it’s tasteful. Avoid saying anything offensive or embarrassing to anyone in the group.
Gestures. Expressions like smiling, nodding and eye contact show warmth and affection.
Add a quote, such as that given by President John F. Kennedy in 1963: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
Practice. Rehearse the toast before one or more friend.
Toasts From History
“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust (1871 – 1922)
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BCE – 43 BCE)
Presidential Thanksgiving Toasts
“As we acknowledge the past, we do so knowing that the individual blessings for which we give thanks may have changed, but our gratitude to God and our commitment to our fellow Americans remain constant.” – Bill Clinton, 1999
“In this spirit, Thanksgiving has become a day when Americans extend a helping hand to the less fortunate. Long before there was a government welfare program, this spirit of voluntary giving was ingrained in the American character. Americans have always understood that, truly, one must give in order to receive. This should be a day of giving as well as a day of thanks.” – Ronald Reagan, 1981
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1963
Football Toasts and Quotes
“I like football. I find it’s an exciting strategic game. It’s a great way to avoid conversation with your family at Thanksgiving.”– Craig Ferguson
“Thanksgiving dinners take 18 hours to prepare. They are consumed in 12 minutes. Half-times take 12 minutes. This is not a coincidence.” – Erma Bombeck
Humorous Toasts and Quotes
“Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often.” – Johnny Carson
“You can tell you ate too much for Thanksgiving when you have to let your bathrobe out.” – Jay Leno
So this Thanksgiving, toast to friends, family, gratitude and… football. Cheers!
Want more? We have plenty of fun ideas for your Thanksgiving gathering with family and friends check out our Gratitude-Inspired Thanksgiving Activities For Families here at Elfster. For a fun way to celebrate with family and friends, start a gift exchange today. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram @Elfster or Twitter @Elfster.