Explained: The 4 Top Cigar Smoking Rituals and Traditions
There are a lot of good reasons to fire up a stogie in the yard, though folks like me would argue that a real enthusiast doesn’t need a reason at all. Why can’t the cigar just be the reason?
Still, there are some occasions that simply demand a good cigar, as if no other means of celebration would be adequate for the occasion. Think new babies, young newlyweds, and that big business deal you’ve been working on for months.
There is a delightful nostalgia to the notion that some cigars can be more than just momentary pleasures. When enjoyed under specific circumstances, cigars are elevated to a thing of tradition, even ritual.
The Victory Cigar
While the origin of tobacco smoking can be attributed to the Native peoples of North and South America, it was the Spanish who brought the plant back to Europe where it developed a following among upper-class merchants and statesmen.
Meanwhile, back in the Americas, Spanish conquistadors were rapidly adopting the Native practice of enjoying rolled tobacco on the grounds of battle, immediately after victory. It was said that the curling smoke would lead the souls of the fallen to the afterlife, while cleansing the surviving victors of the stench of blood and war.
Today, I’ll have a victory cigar just for getting to Friday. It might be a different field of battle, but hey, a victory is a victory, and a warrior is a warrior.
The Status Cigar
When tobacco first arrived in Europe in the 15th century, it was in short supply. Whereas in the Americas, cigar smoking was commonplace for sailors, soldiers, and fieldworkers, Europeans had to pay a hefty premium for the dried leaves. As a result, the only people that could afford cigars were the royal and wealthy.
Over the next few centuries cigar smoking became known as something that only the well-to-do could afford. While this changed significantly after tobacco became commercially grown and harvested, you can still find a few celebrities and businessmen who will keep an unlit cigar dangling from their mouths for no other reason than to flex their social standing.
Philosophically, I tend to side more with the Northern English noblemen of the late twentieth century. It was around this time that some gentleman cigar smokers took to the habit of removing the band from their cigar, as the act of flourishing the brand (and therefore, the price) became something of a social faux-pas.
The New Baby Cigar
The image of a sweating, nervous father-to-be pacing the hospital waiting room with a pocketful of stogies is something that you only really see in the movies. In fact, bringing a lit cigar anywhere near a delivery room in this day and age will likely have you removed from the building.
Still, the tradition of a new father handing out celebratory cigars to celebrate the birth of a child is one that has managed to survive through the centuries. Most historians agree that this tradition likely came from native tribes in North America, who in the “Potlatch” ceremony used to exchange gifts with one another to commemorate births and weddings. Primitive cigars were amongst the gifts that were often given, and were highly prized.
The Thoughtful Cigar
The connection between tobacco smoke and the spirit world is strong in Native American spiritual tradition. Many tribes considered smoke to be a ‘collecting’ agent that could lift spirits, ideas, and prayers to the ancestors above. For tribal leaders and medicine men, the thoughtful smoking of sacred tobacco was a pathway to clearer understanding.
Anyone who has enjoyed a cigar in the peaceful quiet of a mid-summer dusk might agree that there is indeed something inherently contemplative about a slowly-smoked cigar. Likewise there is something in the shared experience of tobacco that can bring humans together in conversation.
Seeing as how I’m not anticipating a kid, planning to defeat an opposing army, or feel the need to become a wealthy shipping merchant in order to participate, I am going to go ahead and call this ritual my personal favorite.
Photo credit: Elvert Barnes on Visualhunt / CC BY-SA