By David Wantz, University of Indianapolis

My daughter was married recently. At the reception her best friend and his best man each gave toasts. Fortunately, they were not the scary kind that go on forever or reveal too much intimate detail. They were heartfelt sentiments from people who love my daughter and son-in-law.

I was also asked to toast the couple. In Norway, where my father’s family is from, there is a toasting tradition unlike the ones you find in America. Here we give the sentiment and say, “Cheers!” Then we hoist our glasses, dutifully tap them against another’s glass, and gulp the contents.

In Norway, folks have a more intimate way of drinking the other’s health. A short speech is made, usually by one politely rising from the table. He or she will end by saying “Skoal for (insert name, here).”

Your task is to find someone in whose eyes you can look deeply. Raise your glass and say, “Skoal!” all the while maintaining eye contact with your partner until the glass is returned to the table.

It is an intimate moment shared between friends or strangers and between men and women. It does not matter who your partner is; you drink with them, locking your gazes until the glass returns to the table.

So, I taught my daughter’s guests a proper Norwegian skoal. The nervous anxiety was palpable as people tried but could not sustain the direct eye contact. A few folks told me that it was a wonderful tradition to learn. Something old; something new, after all.

“Drink to me with thine eyes,” goes the song set to Ben Johnson’s poem. Try it sometime and see if it doesn’t make the act of drinking one’s health a more meaningful and intimate act. Lift your glass, look deeply in your partner’s eyes. Skoal for us! Then slowly let the glass return to the table.

Cheering the air and clanking glasses will seem empty, thereafter.

Maybe you have some thoughts about “toasting” traditions. Let me invite you to share them during the 15th annual Spirit and Place Civic Festival this year. The theme is Food for Thought and will run from November 5 through 14. I am David Wantz and I am a member of the S&P board. I hope you will join us.


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