As with most cultures, Russians have toasts for many occasions. Of course, there are simple, everyday toasts; however, Russians have a rich tradition for toasting special occasions such as birthdays, weddings and welcoming the New Year. There are also toasts for friendship and to health. A Russian adage asserts: "Only problem drinkers don't toast before drinking."
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Russian Toasting Etiquette
Among all Russians, there must be a first toast before anyone drinks. It is a kind of sacrament. At a wake, the first toast must be for the dead person. When friends gather, the first toast is usually "Let's be healthy!" The first birthday toast is for the health of person celebrating and the second toast to the person's parents. The second toast should follow quickly in keeping with the Cossack maxim: "Between the first and second toasts, a bullet should not pass." Among Russian soldiers, the third toast is to the dead of war and the fourth is a toast that none of them present will ever drink the third toast for another present. Among the soldiers, the next 10 toasts are reserved for women.
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Russian Wedding Toasts
Weddings are cause for great celebration among Russians and they have many traditional toasts for the event. There are standard toasts such as "To the newlyweds!" or "To the bride and groom!" and, of course, "To the beautiful bride." However, there are other traditional wedding toasts: "May the happy star that brought you together shine on you for many, many years. Let us raise our glasses to the newlyweds and their happy future!" and "Dear bride and groom, today you celebrate your first wedding. May it be your last one!" At a wedding celebration, the toast "Let's drink to love! Gorka!" is often followed by someone shouting out the Russian word for "bitter" to which the bride and groom respond by kissing. Another wedding toast says: "May your children have happy and rich parents!"
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Russian Friendship Toasts
Toasting friendship is another strong Russian tradition and often the toast takes the form of a story. For example, two old friends are strolling down a street, when one stops and takes the other man's arm. "Let's get out of here! Quick!" he says. "What's the matter?" his friend asks. "Look at the other side of the street--my wife is talking with my mistress." His friend looks across the street and says: "Don't worry, this is my wife talking with my mistress. Cheers to real friends!"
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New Year Toasts
Toasting the New Year, Russians believe that if the New Year's Eve party is good, the coming year also will be good, thus the toast: "May this year be as happy as this party!" There is also this toast: "May this year bring us as many nice surprises as there are lights in all Christmas trees of the city!" Another New Year's toast: "Let us raise our glasses to Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) and his granddaughter Snegurotchka! They never get old or sick and always have enough money for presents! May we be like them!"