Russian Language Blog

Russian Toasts: It Is About More Than Drinking Posted by on Dec 21, 2010 in Culture, Traditions, when in Russia

There’s a persistent stereotype of Russian «праздник» [celebration] as an occasion to get drunk and that «угощение» [meal] consists mostly of liquid bread in form of «водка» [vodka]. Nothing can be further from the truth! From «закуски» [appetizers] to «сладкое» [dessert], Russian holiday table is «ломится от еды» [loaded with food]. After all, «закуска градус крадёт» [the more grub you pick, the less will be the kick].

Still, there will be a fair amount of drinking involved. Which means, of course, that there’s going to be a fair number of toasts to listen to. After all, «пить без тоста – это пьянство» [drinking without toasting is a sign of alcoholism].

Here’s another stereotype that’s going to get busted. For some reason Americans think that «На здоровье!» is a typical Russian toast. Wrong!!! First of all, «на здоровье!» is what one says after being thanked and thus translates as “You’re welcome!” (try to use that as a toast and see how ridiculous it sounds).

Second of all, there’s no single typical Russian toast, mostly because there are so many great and popular «тосты» [toasts] for all occasions. Some are short:

«За тебя [to you!] – means both to your success and to your health as well as to your overall wellbeing and to you being a great guy/gal.

«За знакомство!» [to meeting each other!]

Others are longer, sometimes going on and on like little stories or fables:

«Давайте чокнемся за Деда Мороза и Снегурочку. Они не стареют, не болеют и всегда находят деньги на подарки! Выпьем за то, чтобы мы были как они

[Let’s clink glasses to Father Frost and the Snow Maiden. They don’t get old, they don’t get sick and they always have money for lots of gifts! So let’s drink to us becoming more like them!]

Some toasts are straightforward:

«За то, чтобы Новый Год был лучше старого!» [To the New Year being better than the old one!]

And sometimes they are twisted, requiring more or less «ясная голова» [clear mind; as in unclouded by alcohol] to understand:

«Давайте выпьем за то, чтобы мы испытали столько горя, сколько капель останется в наших бокалах!» [Let’s drink to us experiencing as much sorrow as there are drops (of drink) left in our glasses!]

To make sense of all of this, you must remember that while «без повода пить не принято» [it’s not customary to drink without a reason], «повод всегда найдётся» [a reason can always be found].

So the first toast is always to this reason. If it’s a personal celebration – a birthday, marriage, wedding anniversary, graduation, promotion, etc – the first toast is «за виновника торжества [lit: to the one who’s responsible for the celebration]:

«За молодожёнов!» [to the newlyweds!]

«За именинника!» [to the birthday boy!] or «За именинницу!» [to the birthday girl!]

If the reason is some sort of a public holiday – New Year, International Women’s Day, Victory Day – the first toast is to the holiday itself or to those who are celebrated:

«С Новым Годом!» [Happy New Year!]

«За женщин!» [To women!]

«За защитников Родины!» [To the defenders of the Motherland!]

The second toast acknowledges the guests and invites them to drink essentially to each other’s and their own health and wellbeing. Whether said by «виновник торжества» [the celebrant] or by someone else, the second toast is «за всех присутствующих» [to all who are present] and can be made by anyone. Sometimes «отсутствующие» [those who couldn’t make it for whatever reason] are included in this toast as well.

The third toast is usually «за родителей» [to parents], whether they are still alive or passed away:

«Так давайте же выпьем за родителей, прародителей и прапрародителей, которые сумели, к какое бы тяжёлое время они не жили, вырастить своих детей и продолжить семью [Let’s raise our glasses to our parents, our grandparents and great-grandparents, who hardships notwithstanding, were able to raise their children and to continue the family!]

While toasts to parents serve as reflections on the past, toasts to children and children’s children express hopes for the future. After all, «дети – наше будущее. Так выпьем за светлое и счастливое будущее!» [Children are our future. Let’s raise our glasses to a bright and happy future!]

Finally, «культурые гости» [well-mannered guests] will always toast «хозяйка» [the hostess] for all the care and effort she put into preparing the party. They will also jokingly toast «хозяин» [the host] «за то, что не мешал» [because he didn’t get in the way] while the hostess was getting things ready.

Aside from these toasts, any number of other toasts can be made regardless of the occasion, including:

«За прекрасных дам!» [To the beautiful ladies!]

«За нас, мужиков!» [To us, the guys!]

«За любовь!» [To love!]

«За долголетие!» [To long life!]

«За семейное счастье!» [To happy family life!] and many, many others.

And here’s a perfect New Year’s toast:

«Пусть наша жизнь в новом году будет как шампанское — лёгкой, волнующей, прекрасной и бьющей через край!» [Wishing that our lives in the New Year will be like a drink of Champaign – light, exciting, beautiful and full of energy!]

Tags: , , , ,
Keep learning Russian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. Yuri:

    Just wanted to correct: not “выростить”, but “вырастить” (

    • yelena:

      @Yuri Of course! What a silly typo. I’ll change it right away. Thank you, Yuri, for noticing it and letting me know.

  2. Minority:

    We’ve got one universal toast in our company.

    – Ураааа! [hooray] 🙂

    • yelena:

      @Minority Вы, Minority, прям-таки гусар! 🙂

  3. Minority:

    Елена, да нет, не гусар 🙂 Просто когда собираемся что-то отмечать часто лениво растекаться мыслью по древу.))))

  4. Saint Facetious:

    Don’t forget that the drinking to the much sorrow in the bottom of the glasses must always be finished do kontsa. A toast someone always seems to pull when I’ve just got poured a new glass.