By Geraint Jones.
The drinking of toasts is not commonplace in Britain. We confine ourselves to the odd glass of bubbly at a wedding or birthday, maybe, but even then we tend to sip someone's good health or fortune rather than embrace the occasion with gusto.
None of the above is true in Ukraine. There toasts are part and parcel of every communal meal and vodka is the obligatory tipple rather than fizz.
What's more, sipping or hesitant quaffing is frowned upon.The drinking of the toast must be entered wholeheartedly which means the generous slug of vodka provided be downed in one.
It should be made clear at this stage that we are not talking about unbridled medieval style, anything-goes feasting. There is an etiquette attached to the procedure and anyone considering a visit to Ukraine might do well to familiarise themselves with it.
The first toast is always in honour of the gathering (“za zustrich”), the second for friends (“druga za druga”), the third for love while the fourth can either be for parents or for dreams, depending on the company.
Given that to the novice the first slug of vodka produces an effect akin to a tingling light headedness that spreads agreeably through the limbs, you may find, on first go, at least, four toasts to be a tall order.
The best advice here is to persevere. A little practice works wonders and there is also the magical, energising effect the alcohol has on the gathering. It seems there is no set agreement on what the fifth toast should be. By then such niceties seem less important.