'Cheers, Happy New Year' – The reason why we wish people happy things

Have you ever wished anyone a Terrible New Year?

As far as we're aware, there is no culture that wishes unhappiness upon its people.

In English we mark special occasions by wishing one a 'happy [fill in as required]' as do most other European languages – think Spain's feliz xxx and France's joyeux or bon xxx.

Indonesian and Malay say selamat meaning 'healthy' or 'successful' from the Arabic salam meaning 'peace'.

At Chinese New Year we say Gong Xi Fa Cai which literally means 'good luck getting more wealth'.

Of course, the quick-witted among may have thought of one anomaly.

What about the English 'break a leg' right?

That can't be very happy-making.

But according to the Transcendence Theatre Company some believe this Elizabethan phrase dates from when applauding audiences banged their seats on the ground – sometimes breaking a chair leg.

So, it's still a good wish at heart.

Why do we say 'cheers' when drinking wine?

Here's another area where people can't help but wish good things: wine.

The English 'cheers' comes from the Latin cara or 'face' – though somewhere on its wordly journey through France it began meaning 'countenance' or 'expression'.

By the 14th century in English 'good cheer' became 'cheers' in a positive sense, and later used when clinking wine or beer glasses.

Here's how other cultures celebrate their wine:

  • France: santé or à votre santé, meaning 'health' or 'to your health'.
  • Spain: salud, meaning 'health'.
  • Netherlands: proost, from the Latin prōsit meaning 'may it be good'.
  • Germany: prost, see above.
  • Italian: alla nostre salute, meaning 'to our health'.
  • English: chin chin, also used in Italy and France, actually comes from the Cantonese qingqing used among sailors as a cordial greeting or when inviting others to eat at a banquet.
  • Chinese: yam seng, ganbei, or 'dry cup' is a more common Chinese phrase said, often before finishing a drink in one gulp to show full appreciation.
  • Hebrew: L'chaim, meaning 'to life'.

The reason why we wish people happy things

Psychology and self-help books often tell us things we already know.

Especially when it comes to positive thinking.

This 2016 study on how visualising positive outcomes reduced worry in people with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) – but aren't we all doing that when we wish happy things?

We say 'Happy New Year' or 'Happy Birthday' and visualise positive outcomes for each other.

We say 'cheers' or 'to our health' as we clink our glasses and will good spirits for one another.

Of course, you could be a Scrooge and think 'well if so and so really wishes me good spirits they should buy me a diamond necklace or a Mercedez AMG'.

But you can't deny that, as words, wishing someone happy things is perhaps the most wonderful gift our poor vocal chords can manage.

For we are aiming to reduce your worry, to will your health and happiness, which after all are what make our lives the most meaningful.

(The diamonds wouldn't hurt though!)

Cheers! And a Happy Chinese New Year!

P.S: While reflecting on Chinese New Year we created this guide to the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac – click here to find out which UMAMU wine shares your characteristics!

P.P.S: To celebrate an extra-happy and special moment, our Rose label is perfectly designed for this cause as it bears the words, "Thinking of you... With Love". What more beautiful thing can we say...?