Smiling with a happy face, although slightly jetlagged with a vague souvenir of a trip to the old continent, a few days earlier, I found myself cuddled in the warmth tropical climate of Thailand, trying desperately to forget the icy cold weather and attitudes found in both Spain and Denmark….
Surrounded by a florilege of various perfumes, wandering canapés, cocktail trays and cigars among well and lesser known Skal buddies, and an increasing number of gorgeous Ladies (no comments), I tried guessing how many knew the actual meaning of the word skal, which spells ‘skål’, as we all know, A symbol, our club name, a worldwide recognized brand. The question remains, though, how many of us do know the meaning, it’s origin, besides pronouncing it right before swallowing a delectable alcoholic beverage, then two and three and for those like me who have a huge thirst and a very big stomach, four and five…….”Hic” and “Hic” again…..!
The most common early middle age translations refer to a beverage bowl or vessel, which was passed around the table or the campfire for each to drink from in turn. By extension it became an expression for toasting and often the excuse for a speech, which a majority of Nordics to this day, hoteliers, postal clerks and aristocrats alike, seldom resist after a few skåls of Aquavit, in our case, a few cold “Heinies”, also in company of fellow foreigners, at times a bit startled, wondering from which planet we originate.
A few words are often enough, preferably witty and giving thanks to the Hostess and/ or the Host. Our cherished Norse word is the etymological origin of the English ’skull’. Paul the Deacon (720-799AD) – and others – who lived to live or hear of the first Viking* raids around 780AD was horrified. He claimed the savages skillfully cleaned and adorned the skulls of their fallen enemies with looted gems. Used as drinking vessels for mead, the fermented honey drink they fancied, the bowl was passed around, always from the Chief down.
The Norse then settled (well, invaded) Germany, Ireland and most of the British Islands, to become Christians and civilized. The terrified French King even gave the Danes the Duchy of Normandy, the Swiss…well did not even exist, they were commonly referred to as ‘Waldstätten’ (Forrest states; various clans as brutal and rough as their cousins the Vikings) it’s only later they became known as Switzerland, often confused with Sweden and Swaziland (for the ignorant), but well-known for their insatiable Swiss desire for idyll building (idyllification) leading to the creation of a nation remarkable for its efficient transport networks, orderly villages, and almost unremitting dullness… (oupss, did I just say that??).
The skål practice undoubtedly lived on through Hastings and further. From the 16-17th century onwards, Norse descendants most often toasted the ”All Beautiful Maidens’ skål” to honor and courtship their Lady companions and beloved.
A well-performed skål is also a token of acknowledgment and Friendship. Let’s keep it that way and leave the ‘Beautiful Maidens’, the Vikings and the rest of the invaded countries alone….shall we! * Viking: “for those who skipped history classes” – Common denomination for the different and diverse Nordic barbarian tribes and clans from Denmark, Sweden and Norway conquering, killing, raping and looting the rest of Europe…!
Our stunningly beautiful Kingdom of Thailand is far from the icy fjords, though the spirit still distinguishes our gatherings. The Hua Hin Skål community is an example of gratifying and creative togetherness…..! See you next Friday 10th December for our annual Christmas gathering and bring a friend along! TO HAPPINESS, GOOD HEALTH, FRIENDSHIP AND LONG LIFE! Richard Mehr President Skål International Hua Hin & Cha Am