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The Last One for the Road: На Посошок!

When invited by Russians, you might hear your host offering you a drink “На посошок!” (the last one for the road!). You will more rarely hear “Стременная” or “Забугорная” two others expressions with a similar meaning. Mind you, all three expressions really means the last drink. Find out today, the origin of the most common one.

На посошок

This expression “На посошок!” (the last one for the road!) come from the word “посох”, the stick used by pilgrims and travellers.

Издавна на Руси странники и путешествующие пользовались особым уважением (Since ancient times in Russia, pilgrims and travellers have been treated with special respect) and were welcome while beggars were looked upon as bad people. The reason for that difference of sentiments between those two, was that pilgrims were not walking by idleness, but for spiritual needs, to go to holy places or to trade. Были специальные молитвы перед началом странствия и после его благополучного завершения (there was special prayers before the beginning of a journey and after its successful completion) that were always strictly followed.

Travellers and pilgrims went from villages to villages, from a holy place to the next, опираясь на посохи (leaning on its stick). The stick was also a friend during long travels, and served as a protection against wild animals. Словом, посох был друг-спутник на многие случаи (in short, the stick was the traveller’s best companion on many occasions).

So before they began a long journey, travellers, not knowing what to expect, забрасывали котомку на спину (would put their knapsack on their back) and брали в руки посох (their stick in their hand) and stopped for a moment at the door of the house, where a member of the family would present him with a cup for the road, a cup usually filled by the oldest member of the household.

The drink would be accompanied by wishes of good luck: “Чтобы дорога белой скатертью стелилась” (for your road might be as white as a tablecloth, in that time a white tablecloth was a very valuable thing that was used for special occasion), “Чтобы лиха беда стороной обошла” (for all evil things stay on the side of the road), “Чтобы нечистая сила с пути не сбила” (for the evil forces don’t stand on your way), etc.

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