My favorite thing about the holiday season is the beautiful seasonal songs: sacred hymns, traditional carols and even holiday pop classics. Now that Christmas time has passed most radio stations will be returning to their regular tunes. But there is one more holiday classic I look forward to hearing: the New Year’s standard “Auld Lang Syne”.
This song is widely regarded as the work of Scottish poet Robert Burns, even though several of the lyrics can also be attributed to other writers of similarly-titled works (such as “Old Long Syne”, a 1711 ballad by James Watson). Legend has it that Burns wrote a letter to a friend in which he spoke lovingly of the Scottish phrase “auld lang syne” and of an old folk song that “thrilled through [his]soul”. It is in this letter that he compiled and composed what would live on to become an enduring and well-loved holiday classic.
One of the things that fascinates me most about “Auld Lang Syne” is that, even though it has become a traditional New Year’s song throughout the world, it is still a widely misunderstood tune. There seems to be something missing in translation as holiday revelers warble the title, which roughly translates to “old long since” (and I mean that’s a rough, literal translation…or so I hear) and stumble over the lyrics. But a simple internet search has been more than enough to uncover many wonderful things about “Auld Lang Syne” that I never knew, including full Scottish lyrics, a few nice translations of the song, and this gorgeous rendition of the song as performed by Mairi Campbell and Dave Francis.
As the song says, upon further reflection, should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind, perhaps we should take the time to kindly and fondly remember them. Over a pint perhaps at the pub? That’s neither here nor there, really. But this song does blossom into a moving, loving and heartfelt ballad…and strikes me as the perfect way to usher in a new year.
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet for auld lang syne…