Etymology: – Like many words in science that begin with al-, “the cause of (and solution to) all life’s problems” is derived from the Arabic al-kuhul or al-kohl, But the term originally referred to a method of manufacturing makeup (among other things).
- 1 What is the origin of the name alcohol?
- 2 What is the true meaning of alcohol?
- 3 Who first drank alcohol?
- 4 Is it wise to drink alcohol?
- 5 What’s the Latin word for alcohol?
- 6 Which country invented alcohol?
- 7 Can Catholics drink alcohol?
What is the origin of the name alcohol?
Are the terms alcohol and kohl related? Yes, if we trace their origins. An Arabic etymological term base, the first of its kind, can provide new knowledge about Arab identity and cultural history. Arabic is one of the world’s most widely spoken languages, with an estimated 250 to 300 million native speakers.
Despite this fact, there is still no Arabic etymological dictionary. However, the dictionary is on its way. Stephan Guth, Professor of Arabic at the University of Oslo, has taken the initiative to pursue this research project. “There has been a lot of etymological research, but it has not been collected anywhere,” the professor explains.
The plan is to establish an electronic database, EtymArab. In an upstart phase, the website will be based on words and concepts from Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) only, but these are also chosen to shed light on roots and concepts that have a special importance in Arab intellectual and cultural history, from ancient times until the present day.
- The history of their language helps us understand who the Arabs are – and were,” Guth says.
- He points out that the database will also present the narratives that emerge when a word is traced back in time.
- As such, EtymArab will be more than a standard etymological dictionary.
- Words unlock the doors to history ” Alcohol is a word that you will not find in dictionaries of Classical Arabic.
In the final analysis, however, this word is of Arabic origin. It is derived from the Arabic al-kuhl, which means ‘kohl’. When the Europeans became familiar with this substance in Andalusia, which was also used for medical purposes, they referred to it and gradually all other fine powders, and subsequently all kinds of volatile essences, as alcohol,
In Catalan, kohl is still called alcofoll, In the meaning “essence of wine, spirit,” the word later returned to the Arabs and became al-kuhul, Guth explains. “Today, we thus have two Arabic words: The one that started this development, i.e. al-kuhl, which still means ‘kohl’, and the loan word al-kuhul, which means ‘alcohol’.
“When a word is opened, several doors to history are unlocked,” Guth points out. Kohl (kuhl) turns out to have been a commodity which was widely used in the Orient, and it was probably already known in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. “Almost each time I go to the root of a word, I discover new nuances, new narratives,” the professor says.
The first step: a thousand-word prototype The research project, launched in 2012, builds upon the many studies undertaken so far in the West and in Arab countries. “It’s a comprehensive work we have ahead of us. As for myself, I do not expect to see the database completed,” Guth says. The first step is a prototype that will contain approximately 1,000 words and concepts.
“Everything will need quality assurance, of course. This is a major challenge. We need expertise from a number of other disciplines to interpret our findings correctly. For example philosophy, theology and medicine, as well as all the major philologies of the Ancient Orient, in particular Semitic languages such as Akkadian, Aramaic, Hebrew, Ethiopic and Old South Arabian.
- But also all stages of Persian.
- Gradually, we wish to open the database to the entire world, according to the Wikipedia model.” Etymology is a sensitive issue “Why a European project, and not an Arabic one?” “The fact that the Arabs themselves have not produced an etymological dictionary so far is probably due to the sacred status of the Arabic language.
A historic approach, such as ours, is more common in the European tradition than in the Arabic one,” Guth explains. He has previously lived in Arabic-speaking countries, in Cairo and Beirut. “Arabs tend to be hesitant about cooperating with the West with regard to projects that touch upon Arab and Muslim identity.
- Etymology, like archaeology, can be a very sensitive area.
- It was not always like this, however.
- Until the mid-20th century such cooperation was far more relaxed.
- Matters were later complicated by the establishment of the state of Israel, the Palestine refugee tragedy, and other traumatic experiences such as the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the Gulf Wars.” He adds, however, that attitudes to the West have changed somewhat in recent years.
“We now have contact with scholars in Qatar. A group of Arab researchers have embarked on a promising project, a dictionary that addresses Arabic language history.” Even the Koran is full of loanwords “Many Arabs claim that Arabic is essentially a pure language,” Professor Guth points out.
- As a result of the anticolonial national movement, several purist language academies emerged, striving to keep the language ‘pure’.” According to etymological research, however, Arabic has always been a linguistic cocktail.
- But Arabic is also a conservative language.
- Loanwords tend to be Arabized,” he says, using the word ‘train’ as an example.
“The Arabs became familiar with trains as a means of transport in the 19th century. But instead of adopting the French or English word ‘train’, as the Turks did, they chose an old Arabic word instead: qitar, which until then had been used to describe a train of camels.” Throughout various historical epochs, Arabic has been influenced by several other languages.
Even though most Arabic words look ‘purely Arabic’, many of them are loanwords, which points to the fact that there has always been close contact between the cultures. Even the Koran is full of loanwords, most of which originate from Syrian-Aramaic and Hebrew. This is a result of the presence of Christian and Jewish groups in Arabia at the time.” Islamic theology impossible without Hellenism “Islamic theology and other sciences would look much different, or perhaps would not exist at all, had the Arabs not absorbed the Hellenist legacy,” Guth points out.
“The culture of the Arab royal courts during the ‘Golden Age’ is basically Persian royal court culture.” The culture and history of the Arabs are hidden in their words. “That’s why this research project is important. That’s why it is essential to put in place an etymological dictionary such as this one.
What is the true meaning of alcohol?
(AL-kuh-hol) A chemical substance found in drinks such as beer, wine, and liquor. It is also found in some medicines, mouthwashes, household products, and essential oils (scented liquid taken from certain plants). It is made by a chemical process called fermentation that uses sugars and yeast.
Who first drank alcohol?
A Brief History of Alcohol & Alcoholic Beverages Fermented beverages in early Egyptian civilization. Photo Credit: GoddessGift Fermented grain, fruit juice and honey have been used to make alcohol (ethyl alcohol or ethanol) for thousands of years. Fermented beverages existed in early Egyptian civilization, and there is evidence of an early alcoholic drink in China around 7000 B.C.
- In India, an alcoholic beverage called sura, distilled from rice, was in use between 3000 and 2000 B.C.
- The Babylonians worshiped a wine goddess as early as 2700 B.C.
- In Greece, one of the first alcoholic beverages to gain popularity was mead, a fermented drink made from honey and water.
- Greek literature is full of warnings against excessive drinking.
Several Native American civilizations developed alcoholic beverages in pre-Columbian times. A variety of fermented beverages from the Andes region of South America were created from corn, grapes or apples, called “chicha.” In the sixteenth century, alcohol (called “spirits”) was used largely for medicinal purposes.
- At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the British parliament passed a law encouraging the use of grain for distilling spirits.
- Cheap spirits flooded the market and reached a peak in the mid-eighteenth century.
- In Britain, gin consumption reached 18 million gallons and alcoholism became widespread.
The nineteenth century brought a change in attitudes and the temperance movement began promoting the moderate use of alcohol—which ultimately became a push for total prohibition. In 1920 the US passed a law prohibiting the manufacture, sale, import and export of intoxicating liquors.
What is the oldest alcohol name in the world?
Viking vice to trendy tipple – Dating back thousands of years, mead is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits or spices. It was once thought to be the drink of the gods, falling from the Heavens as dew and then gathered by bees.
- Mead was also believed to improve health and prolong life.
- There is also a theory that mead was given to newlyweds to enjoy in the time after their marriage, creating the term ‘honeymoon’.
- Once the Vikings’ drink of choice, mead now has a new and growing following who are putting a modern twist on the historical classic.
Far from the flagons of old, modern mead drinkers enjoy the 9000-year-old beverage served over ice in cocktail glasses. To celebrate the revival of this golden brew, English Heritage has collaborated with The Vanguard — the UK’s first Cocktail Bar & Meadery — to create three new mead cocktails.
Is alcohol a sin in Bible?
Drinking Alcohol is Not a Sin Contrary to what many Christians have grown up hearing, it is not a sin to drink alcohol. Scripture nowhere condemns or prohibits consuming moderate levels of alcohol. Case in point—Jesus drank wine.
Is it wise to drink alcohol?
No level of alcohol consumption is safe for our health The risks and harms associated with drinking alcohol have been systematically evaluated over the years and are well documented. The World Health Organization has now published a statement in The Lancet Public Health: when it comes to alcohol consumption, there is no safe amount that does not affect health.
What’s the Latin word for alcohol?
Which country invented alcohol?
The earliest known evidence comes from 7,000 BCE in China, where residue in clay pots has revealed that people were making an alcoholic beverage from fermented rice, millet, grapes, and honey.
When did humans first get drunk?
As winter deepens (in the North — hello, summery South!), many people’s minds are turning towards celebrations of the solstice, many of which are accompanied by (sometimes copious) alcohol consumption. But when did we first acquire a taste for alcohol? Apparently, humans have always had it.
- According to a wonderful study appearing in PNAS, alcohol metabolism appeared in our primate ancestors between 7 and 21 million years ago, long before the human species existed.
- The primate population that evolved to metabolize alcohol eventually gave rise, not only to humans, but also to chimps, bonobos, and gorillas, all of which share our ability to break down booze.
It turns out that our kind has been able to tolerate alcohol for longer than we’ve been human. Metabolizing alcohol is a complex process involving many enzymes, but the researchers focused their efforts on just one, ADH4. ADH4 is expressed in primates’ stomachs and tongues, and has been shown to play a significant role in alcohol metabolism.
- Of course, a full understanding of how primates evolved to metabolize alcohol will only emerge after we’ve studied the other enzymes, too, but ADH4 is a good start.
- I think my favourite thing about this study may have been the surprisingly straightforward, direct approach the researchers chose.
- They started by making a phylogeny of the ADH4 gene based on its sequence in modern primates.
Each node in the tree represents a hypothetical common ancestor, and the team could infer the structure of the ancestral versions of the protein in each one — what it looked like in the common ancestor of humans, chimps, bonobos, and gorillas, for example, or in the common ancestor of that group and orangutans.
- So far, this is just standard phylogenetics.
- The cool part is what the team did next.
- They engineered bacteria to express the ancestral versions of ADH4, extracted these proteins from the bacterial cultures, and tested their ability to metabolize alcohol.
- In other words, they resurrected proteins that haven’t been seen for millions of years — ADH4 went on changing in each ancestor’s descendants — just to find out if they could break down alcohol.
Amazing! The researchers found that the mutation responsible for alcohol metabolism appeared in our common ancestor with bonobos, chimps, and gorillas. Orangutans can’t break down alcohol; nor can gibbons, baboons, or a range of other primates. The natural question, of course, is “why then?”.
- Why in that group of animals, at that time? It’s a common question in evolutionary stories, and it’s always a tough one to answer with certainty.
- In this case, the researchers point out that the evolution of alcohol metabolism coincided with a major climate disruption around the middle of the Miocene; one of its consequences was the transformation of East African forest ecosystems into fragmented forests and grasslands.
Our ancestors, who may have been knuckle-walking through these grasslands, may have started eating more fruit they found on the ground, rather than in trees. Fruit sitting on the ground rots, and part of that process is fermentation of the sugars into ethanol.
Many hominoids went extinct during the transition from forest to grassland, so the ability to eat fermented fruit might have been quite an advantage. As is so often the case, it’s hard to be sure if that’s actually what happened, but it’s an attractive and plausible explanation. Ref Carrigan et al. Hominids adapted to metabolize ethanol long before human-directed fermentation,
PNAS Early Edition, (2014) doi: 10.1073/pnas.1404167111 Image credits The grape photo is by Hannele Luhtasela-el Showk and is used with permission.
How old is the oldest alcoholic?
The Earliest Alcoholic Beverage in the World Chemical analyses recently confirmed that the earliest alcoholic beverage in the world was a mixed fermented drink of rice, honey, and hawthorn fruit and/or grape. The residues of the beverage, dated ca.7000–6600 BCE, were recovered from early pottery from Jiahu, a Neolithic village in the Yellow River Valley.
Dr. Patrick McGovernDr. Juzhong Zhang, University of Science and Technology of China Dr. Jigen Tang, Chinese Academy of Social SciencesDr. Zhiqing Zhang, Henan Institute of Cultural Relics and ArchaeologyDr. Gretchen R. Hall, Penn MuseumDr. Robert A. Moreau, U.S. Department of AgricultureDr. Alberto Nuñez, U.S. Department of AgricultureDr. Eric D. Butrym, Firmenich CorporationDr. Michael P. Richards, University of BradfordDr. Chen-shan Wang, Penn MuseumDr. Guangsheng Cheng, Chinese Academy of SciencesDr. Zhijun Zhao, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Dr. Changsui Wang, University of Science and Technology of China
Chemical analyses of ancient organics absorbed, and preserved, in pottery jars from the Neolithic village of Jiahu, in Henan province, Northern China, have revealed that a mixed fermented beverage of rice, honey, and fruit was being produced as early as 9,000 years ago, approximately the same time that barley beer and grape wine were beginning to be made in the Middle East.
In addition, liquids more than 3,000 years old, remarkably preserved inside tightly lidded bronze vessels, were chemically analyzed. These vessels from the capital city of Anyang and an elite burial in the Yellow River Basin, dating to the Shang and Western Zhou Dynasties (ca.1250-1000 BCE), contained specialized rice and millet “wines.” The beverages had been flavored with herbs, flowers, and/or tree resins, and are similar to herbal wines described in the Shang dynasty oracle inscriptions.
The new discoveries, made by an international, multi-disciplinary team of researchers including the Penn Museum’s archaeochemist Dr. Patrick McGovern, provide the first direct chemical evidence for early fermented beverages in ancient Chinese culture, thus broadening our understanding of the key technological and cultural roles that fermented beverages played in China.
The discoveries and their implications for understanding ancient Chinese culture are published in the PNAS Early Edition (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences): by Patrick E. McGovern, Juzhong Zhang, Jigen Tang, Zhiquing Zhang, Gretchen R. Hall, Robert A. Moreau, Alberto Nuñez, Eric D. Butrym, Michael P.
Richards, Chen-shan Wang, Guangsheng Cheng, Zhijun Zhao, and Changsui Wang. Dr. McGovern worked with this team of researchers, associated with the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, the Institute of Archaeology in Beijing, the Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology of Henan Province, the U.S.
- Department of Agriculture, the Firmenich Corporation, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig (Germany), and the Institute of Microbiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Dr.
- McGovern first met with archaeologists and scientists, including his co-authors on the paper, in China in 2000, returning there in 2001 and 2002.
Because of the great interest in using modern scientific techniques to investigate a crucial aspect of ancient Chinese culture, collaboration was initiated and samples carried back to the U.S. for analysis. Chemical tests of the pottery from the Neolithic village of Jiahu was of special interest, because it is some of the earliest known pottery from China.
This site was already famous for yielding some of the earliest musical instruments and domesticated rice, as well as possibly the earliest Chinese pictographic writing. Through a variety of chemical methods including gas and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, infrared spectrometry, and stable isotope analysis, finger-print compounds were identified, including those for hawthorn fruit and/or wild grape, beeswax associated with honey, and rice.
The prehistoric beverage at Jiahu, Dr. McGovern asserts, paved the way for unique cereal beverages of the proto-historic 2nd millennium BCE, remarkably preserved as liquids inside sealed bronze vessels of the Shang and Western Zhou Dynasties. The vessels had become hermetically sealed when their tightly fitting lids corroded, preventing evaporation.
- Numerous bronze vessels with these liquids have been excavated at major urban centers along the Yellow River, especially from elite burials of high-ranking individuals.
- Besides serving as burial goods to sustain the dead in the afterlife, the vessels and their contents can also be related to funerary ceremonies in which living intermediaries communicated with the deceased ancestor and gods in an altered state of consciousness after imbibing a fermented beverage.
“The fragrant aroma of the liquids inside the tightly lidded jars and vats, when their lids were first removed after some three thousand years, suggested that they indeed represented Shang and Western Zhou fermented beverages, ” Dr. McGovern noted. Samples of liquid inside vessels from the important capital of Anyang and the Changzikou Tomb in Luyi county were analyzed.
- The combined archaeochemical, archaeobotanical and archaeological evidence for the Changzikou Tomb and Anyang liquids point to their being fermented and filtered rice or millet “wines,” either jiu or chang, its herbal equivalent, according to the Shang Dynasty oracle inscriptions.
- Specific aromatic herbs (e.g., wormword), flowers (e.g., chrysanthemum), and/or tree resins (e.g., China fir and elemi) had been added to the wines, according to detected compounds such as camphor and alpha-cedrene, beta-amyrin and oleanolic acid, as well as benzaldehyde, acetic acid, and short-chain alcohols characteristic of rice and millet wines.
Both jiu and chang of proto-historic China were likely made by mold saccharification, a uniquely Chinese contribution to beverage-making in which an assemblage of mold species are used to break down the carbohydrates of rice and other grains into simple, fermentable sugars.
- Yeast for fermentation of the simple sugars enters the process adventitiously, either brought in by insects or settling on to large and small cakes of the mold conglomerate (qu) from the rafters of old buildings.
- As many as 100 special herbs, including wormwood, are used today to make qu, and some have been shown to increase the yeast activity by as much as seven-fold.
For Dr. McGovern, who began his role in the Chinese wine studies in 2000, this discovery offers an exciting new chapter in our rapidly growing understanding of the importance of fermented beverages in human culture around the world. In 1990, he and colleagues Rudolph H.
Michel and Virginia R. Badler first made headlines with the discovery of what was then the earliest known chemical evidence of wine, dating to ca.3500-3100 BCE, from Godin Tepe in the Zagros Mountains of western Iran (see “Drink and Be Merry!: Infrared Spectroscopy and Ancient Near Eastern Wine” in Organic Contents of Ancient Vessels: Materials Analysis and Archaeological Investigation, eds.W.R.
Biers and P.E. McGovern, MASCA Research Papers in Science and Archaeology, vol.7, Philadelphia: MASCA, University of Pennsylvania Museum, University of Pennsylvania). That finding was followed up by the earliest chemically confirmed barley beer in 1992, inside another vessel from the same room at Godin Tepe that housed the wine jars.
- In 1994, chemical testing confirmed resinated wine inside two jars excavated by a Penn archaeological team at the Neolithic site of Hajji Firuz Tepe, Iran, dating to ca.5400 BCE and some 2000 years earlier than the Godin Tepe jar. Dr.
- McGovern is author of Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture (Princeton University Press, 2003).
Dr. McGovern’s research was made possible by support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Henry Luce Foundation, and the National Science Foundation (2000-2001; award BCS-9911128). The GC-MS analyses were carried out in the Chemistry Department of Drexel University through the kind auspices of J.P.
- Honovich. Dr.
- McGovern also thanks the Institute of Archaeology in Beijing and Zhengzhou for logistical support and providing samples for analysis.
- Qin Ma Hui, Wuxiao Hong, Hsing-Tsung Huang, Shuicheng Li, Guoguang Luo, Victor Mair, Harold Olmo, Vernon Singleton, and Tiemei Chen variously advised on or facilitated the research.
Changsui Wang, chairperson of the Archaeometry program at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei (Anhui Province) was untiring in his enthusiasm for the project, and personally accompanied Dr. McGovern on travels to excavations and institutes, where collaborations and meetings with key scientists and archaeologists were arranged.
What is the oldest alcohol in Europe?
Mead is the oldest alcohol in the world – Mead (Miodh in Irish) is the world’s oldest alcoholic drink, referred to as nectar of the gods, ambrosia, honey wine or honeymoon wine. The earliest discovery of a drink fermented from honey was in northern China in 6500 BC,
- This means that mead is older than the wheel! In Europe, mead traces were found in ceramics from 2800-1800 BC including in Northern Scotland.
- This archaeological culture is known as the Beaker culture for its distinctive pottery drinking beakers.
- It is the nectar of the gods in Greek mythology, drink of goddesses and was drunk in Roman times.
Romans also drank wine sweetened with a spice honey syrup, technically called a Mulsum, which is often confused with authentic mead. It is the national drink of Ethiopia – Tej,
Is alcohol forbidden in Islam?
What does the Quran say about alcohol? – Drinking alcohol is considered haram, or forbidden, in Islam. As proof of the prohibition, Islamic scholars and Muslim religious authorities typically point to a verse in the Quran, the Muslim holy book, that calls intoxicants “the work of Satan” and tells believers to avoid them.
Can Catholics drink alcohol?
How to Drink Like a Saint September 6, 2021 While researching Drinking With the Saints, I was looking for what drinks I could recommend on certain feast days of the liturgical year. What I did not expect to discover was a lesson in how to drink them. That lesson can be distilled into five key points.
To drink like a saint—that is, to enjoy alcohol the way it was meant by God to be enjoyed—one must drink 1 – With Moderation Moderation is not only the morally responsible thing to do, it is also the more pleasant. The Epicureans of old were moderate in their appetites because of their commitment not to virtue but to maximizing their physical pleasure, for they knew that excess would rob them of the carnal goal they sought.
Christians are free to profit from this insight, for God wants us to derive pleasure from his creation. Moderation is also important because it fosters health, which is one of the reasons the Church has historically tolerated and even supported the consumption of alcohol (think of the medieval religious orders and their production of beer, wine, whiskey, and liqueur).
- In the Middle Ages and beyond, alcohol purified contaminated water or served as a substitute for it, and it also acted as a medicine for different ailments.
- To this day, when Carthusian monks in the Grand Charterhouse (located high in the drafty French Alps) catch a cold, they take a tablespoon of their delicious herbal liqueur, chartreuse.
Lastly, moderation is key to fostering fellowship. Drinking just enough to relax the tongue but not enough to have it reel away from dispassionate thought is highly conducive to good conversation and camaraderie. As the poet Ogden Nash puts it in his poem “Reflections on an Ice Breaker,” “Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker.” 2 – With Gratitude Moderation is also an expression of gratitude to God for the goodness of the grape and the grain.
As Chesterton puts it: “We should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of them.” Gratitude is a much-ignored virtue these days, as we fixate more and more on our rights and entitlements and less on what we owe to others. Indeed, for some modern philosophers such as Kant gratitude is a bad thing, a threat to our autonomy, for it implies that we are in someone else’s debt.
But for the Catholic, it is a joy to give thanks to the God who creates, redeems, and sanctifies us and to see his beneficence in all the goods around us, including those in our glass. Note the gratitude fermenting in this statement by St. Arnold of Metz, a patron saint of brewers: “From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world.” 3 – With Memory Catholic piety is centered on the Eucharist, which means “thanksgiving,” and hence an attitude of gratitude permeates all aspects of Catholic life.
- But the Eucharist is also a memorial, a fulfillment of the command to “Do this in memory of Me.” Gratitude requires memory, specifically, the memory of the good things undeservedly given to us.
- One of the key differences between healthy and unhealthy drinking is whether the imbiber is drinking to remember or drinking to forget.
Consider the difference between the drinking that goes on at a truly good and noble wedding and the drinking that often goes on at a bar. At a good wedding, multiple generations gather to celebrate the triumphant and honorable nuptials of a faithful man and a faithful woman; they gather to celebrate the love of this new couple which, God willing, will only grow over the years and lead to more children and more love.
- And when they do so, they also remember the love in their own marriages, the love in their parents’ marriages, and on and on.
- They remember a great chain of love, and they raise their glasses to it.
- Contrast this picture with that of a middle-aged man at the corner of the bar drinking alone.
- He laments his loneliness, his dead-end job, his lost youth.
The man orders round after round not to remember the good but to forget the bad. Such a use of the drink falls far from the fine art of Catholic quaffing.4 – With Merriment Another way to consider the difference between healthy and unhealthy drinking is to reflect on the notions of “fun” and “merriment.” “Fun” implies a form of entertainment that is not necessarily bad but is usually superficial and can usually be enjoyed alone.
- Perhaps a young man would have more fun playing video games with his friends, but it is conceivable that he can still have some fun playing the game by himself.
- Merriment,” on the other hand, necessitates fellowship.
- People usually do not make merry alone in a room; they make merry at a festival or a great banquet.
At least to my mind, merriment presupposes strong community and a truly divine and memorable reason to celebrate: think of how absurd it would be to say “Merry Administrative Professionals’ Day.” But “Merry Christmas” still has theological meaning, and not just because Christ’s Mass is mentioned.
- When we wish someone to be merry on Our Lord’s birthday, we are hoping that they will have more than just a good time.
- Of course, all of this involves risk: there is an obsolete term in English, “merry-drunk,” that suggests as much.
- But as Josef Pieper points out in his work In Tune with the World: A Theory of Festivity, all festivity contains “a natural peril and a germ of degeneration” because all festivity carries with it an element of lavishness.
But just as lavishness need not involve decadence, “wet” merriment need not involve drowning.5 – With Ritual Pieper’s book calls to mind another aspect of merriment: ritual. “The ritual festival,” Pieper goes so far as to assert, “is the most festive form of festivity.” How? Because true festive joy cannot exist without God and without a tradition of celebration involving ritual praise and sacrifice.
Without religious ritual, Pieper concludes, a holiday becomes not a “profane festival” but something worse: a contrived and artificial occasion that becomes a “new and more strenuous kind of work.” We pious drinkers can appropriate Pieper’s wisdom with two simple practices. First, our celebrations should be grounded in the liturgical year, that grand recurring narrative of the mysteries of Christ and His saints.
Catholic liturgy, Pieper writes, “is in fact ‘an unbounded Yea- and Amen-saying’ to the “whole of reality and existence,” and each saint’s feast day is both a celebration of a saint’s having said Yes to God and an invitation for us to do so as well. Second, there should be some ritual component to one’s celebration, no matter how humble.
- The easiest way to accomplish this goal is with the ritual of a toast.
- Toasting is about as old as drinking itself and has deeply religious roots.
- The original “libation,” along with uttering some invocation to the divine, consisted of pouring out the first portion of one’s drink to the gods.
- And according to one account, the custom of clinking glasses is a Christian invention, its tinkling sound imitating the peal of church bells driving away demons.
Catholics should be natural toasters, for ritual is in our blood: we recognize that formality does not replace spontaneity or joy but completes it, channels it, enriches it. And the universal desire to toast to someone’s health finds new meaning in the high Christian aspiration for more than a mere absence of bodily ills.
- All it takes is one toast to make your amorphous get-together an event, perhaps even a holy one.
- In the same work, Joseph Pieper quotes with approval a Nietzschean aphorism: “The trick is not to arrange a festival, but to find people who can enjoy it.” With the age of post-modern nihilism upon us, the question is not whether Christians should enjoy a drink festively; the question is whether they will be the only ones left capable of doing so.
(This article originally appeared in )
What’s the Latin word for alcohol?