‘Prost!’: A guide to toasting in Austria

As we head towards the festive season in Austria, there’s a high chance you will be involved in more than one “prost” in the coming weeks. Here’s how to do it properly.

'Prost!': A guide to toasting in Austria
Whatever you do, don't forget to make eye contact when saying "Prost!" in Austria. (Photo by Pavel Danilyuk / Pexels)

For many people, “prost” is one of the first words they learn in German, which comes in handy as it often comes up in social situations. 

But if you’re new to Austria and wondering what it means, or you simply want to make sure you’re doing it right, here’s a useful guide.

READ ALSO: Austrian traditions: How to celebrate St. Martin’s Day in Austria

What does “prost” mean?

“Prost” is the German equivalent of “cheers”. The word comes from the Latin word “prosit”, which basically means to wish good health before drinking.

Some alternatives to “prost” that you might hear are “zum Wohl” (to good health) or simply “gesund” (healthy).

But whatever you do, try to avoid mixing terms. If someone says “prost” or “zum Wohl”, then say that back.

When is it used?

“Prost” is used in the same way in Austria that you would use “cheers” – when having drinks with other people and clinking glasses.

So you will probably come across it at the pub with colleagues or during a weekend get together with friends. 

You will almost certainly say it before having a beer or schnapps with others.

READ MORE: How did the Wiener Schnitzel become an Austrian icon?

How to say ‘prost’ – the Austrian way

There are a few rules to be aware of when prost-ing. 

First, make sure you clink your glass with everyone involved in the prost (within reason – if it’s a room full of people at a wedding, for example, just raise your glass and nod your head towards others instead).

READ ALSO: Wiener Weinwandertag: Everything you need to know about Vienna’s ‘Wine Hiking Day’

Second, always maintain eye contact. If there is a group of four people, you will say “prost” and clink the glass of every person while looking them in the eye. This is standard practice and you will be called out if you don’t.

In fact, some Austrians will tell you it is bad luck (or a sentence for “seven years of bad sex”) not to look into the eyes of the person you are cheering with. Clinking glasses and making eye contact is an absolute must, then.

Third, do not start drinking until everyone has clinked glasses and said ‘prost’. As explained in a guide by Visiting Vienna, not waiting for the prost to finish before taking a swig of beer is like queue jumping in the UK. Terribly rude behaviour that will be noted by everyone else involved.

So get ready to socialise like a local and impress your Austrian friends with your prost etiquette.

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Austrian traditions: How to celebrate St. Martin’s Day in Austria

Austrians celebrate St. Martin's Day, also known as Martinstag, even if it is not an official bank holiday. From traditional food to parades, here's how to enjoy the day.

Austrian traditions: How to celebrate St. Martin's Day in Austria

Austria is a very catholic country and several important dates for the church are official bank holidays. However, even the dates that are not holidays are still often celebrated by the population – even if just by preparing a traditional meal.

Martinstag, or St. Martin’s Day, is one of those dates that people don’t get off from work, but still, many Austrians will commemorate every November 11th. 

Who was Saint Martin?

According to Catholic tradition, Saint Martin of Tours was a “conscientious objector who wanted to be a monk; a monk who was manoeuvred into being a bishop; a bishop who fought paganism as well as pleaded for mercy to heretics”. 

As the legend goes, Saint Martin, a Roman soldier, gave a beggar half his red cloak to protect him during a snowstorm. 

READ ALSO: Five things you will find in (almost) every Austrian home

Through this good deed, Saint Martin is considered the patron saint of travellers and the poor and is seen as an example to children to share and be giving.

One legend has it that he hid in a goose stall when he was summoned by the church to become a bishop, as he felt unworthy. But the geese cackled so loudly that Martin was found – and now geese are eaten on his name day.

How is the date celebrated?

The main festivities revolve around the evening meal; traditionally, Martinigansl goose often served with cabbage and dumplings.

Mid-November was the time of year when farmers completed their autumn wheat seeding and slaughtered the fattened cattle before the winter.

READ ALSO: COMPARE: How do Austria’s public holidays stack up against the rest of Europe?

But across Austria, St Martin’s Day, and the weeks leading up to it, is marked by eating Martinigansl – roasted goose served with aromatic chestnuts, red cabbage and fluffy bread dumplings. The meal is just as important for some people as Easter and Christmas dinners.

Traditionally, the day is also the occasion for naming the year’s new wine. Therefore, it has special significance for the wine regions and villages in Burgenland around Lake Neusiedl.

Where can I try the traditional meal?

If you’re planning to try Martinigansl in Vienna, the Kurier newspaper recommends Rudi’s Beisl in the 5th district. Their goose is served with red cabbage, white cabbage and potato or bread dumplings for €29.90.

If you don’t eat meat, you could try the ‘goose’ at Cafe Harvest, Vienna’s second district. It’s made from soy fillets and served along with red cabbage and potato dumplings. It’s already available for €17.80.

READ ALSO: Vienna Christmas Markets: Here are the dates and locations for 2022

A goose broth with baked Kaiserschöberl croutons is followed by free-range goose breast with goose praline, red cabbage, and Waldviertel dumplings. Dessert is a sweet baked apple served with gingerbread foam. 


The St. Martins procession

In parts of Austria, children celebrate Martinstag by carrying paper lanterns they have made in school in an evening procession. In some places, the lantern procession ends with a Martinsfeuer (bonfire).

“Der Laternenumzug”, or lantern procession, is an annual celebration in honour of St. Martin’s Day. 

However, while St. Martin’s Day is an occasion celebrated by Catholics across Europe, including the UK, this children’s tradition seems to only be commonplace in German-speaking regions (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and some areas of Belgium, Italy and Poland).

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Der Laternenumzug

The procession is usually organised through local kindergartens and schools, and the children themselves often make the lanterns during their classes. The children are often accompanied by a man dressed as St. Martin in his iconic red cloak.