The ritual of breaking bottles on a ship
In India there is this custom among the Hindus of breaking a coconut before starting something new, such as a new business, or even at a temple when offer prayers. Now if we tell you that there exists a similar custom of breaking a bottle of champagne over the bow of a ship, how would that sound? Interesting, isn’t it? Well, you better believe it, because it is the absolute truth!
The custom of breaking a bottle of champagne at the launch of a new ship is a particularly interesting and prevailing custom in the US and Britain since time immemorial. But why would anybody with a sound judgement do that? Why wouldn’t they drink a glass of champagne instead of breaking the beautiful bottle? We are here to find that out.
Champagne and ships
The earliest known practice of sacrifice before the launch of a ship dates back to 5,000 years in Babylonian history. It was said, “To the Gods, I caused oxen to be sacrificed.” Thus came this custom, and the world did not get enough of it yet.
There were numerous different customs followed by the ancient people, such as the Egyptians and Greeks before they waved their ships adieu, and such a practice has ever since become common. The idea is to offer the Gods something to please them in order for them to protect your ship in times of turmoil. You can call this act a sort of Christening for the ship, and a practice that is revered in many parts of the world. While the Greeks wore olive branch wreaths around their heads, and drank wine, the Turks sacrificed a sheep, and the Vikings went a step ahead and used to offer human blood. All this just so their ships would sail smoothly through the sea.
These sacrificial acts of religious significance were soon replaced by the act of drinking from a standing cup, especially in Britain. Usually such an act was done by the royalty. After drinking from the precious metallic glass, they would throw the remains on the bow of the ship and throw it by the side of the ship only to be caught by one lucky bystander. Eventually this act was getting way too expensive because of the usage of this precious glass, and it was replaced by the bottle of champagne as we know it today.
The practise is largely prevalent even to this day, and it is quite clear that it is not going away anytime soon. Even though today it is a fun activity based on sentimentality and historically important, there is always a little side of us that is hesitant to do away with such ceremonies isn’t it? We would however like to say that the next time you buy a car do not try to smash a bottle of champagne, it is way too precious to be wasted.