I flash back to 1989 and the movie “When Harry Met Sally”.  What?  I can’t date myself?  I’m a child of the eighties, at least I own it.  Where was I?  Right, Harry, Sally, New Year’s.  So, as everyone is celebrating at midnight and Harry says to Sally, “All my life I’ve been singing this song and I don’t know what it means. I mean, ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot?’ Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot ’em?”.  To which Sally smiles wistfully and says, “I don’t know, but it’s about old friends.”

 

Old friends matter, they always do.

 

So everyone sings this song, or at least its first verse,

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?”

After that the drunken singers sort of trail off and move on to the obligatory (and honestly, so fun) New Year’s kiss.  Frankly, I’ve always been a little amazed that an obscure Scottish poem based on an old Scottish folksong that was then subsequently made into another song has so firmly implanted itself into the Western psyche.

People sing the song and I can’t count the times I’ve had someone ask me, what does this song mean? 

It’s a song quite literally of “days of auld lang syne” which in Northern Old English/Scots meant “days gone by”.  In Scottish folklore this phrase is substituted for our “Once upon a time”.  It’s a song of endings and beginnings.  This is why it is such a perfect New Year’s song as we usher out one year and welcome the new one.  It is also sung at funerals, graduations and Boy Scout Jamborees.  It is sung at times of transition.  As the English, Scots, Irish and Welsh spread throughout the world they took the song with them.

The lyrics put into their simplest form ask the listener, once the days of our friendship are gone, who will remember?  We drank a pint together, we gathered flowers together, we paddled the creek together but now life has placed an ocean between us.  Where is our friendship now and shouldn’t we strive to remember those happy days even as we look forward to new times? So, let’s remember those old times, because they did matter.  As we look forward we’ll lift our glasses and drink to the past even as we hope for more good times in the days to come.

This song is usually credited to Robert Burns in 1788.  However, as he submitted the poem Mr. Burns let people know he had gotten the words from an old Scotsman and these words were part of an old folksong, part of an oral tradition.  In his words he said it was a song “of olden times”.  While Mr. Burns’ modesty is admirable, and frankly refreshing after watching the 2012 presidential race, he is clearly right.  This had been done before.  James Watson had published an almost word for word rendition (allowing for some differences in the Old English dialect) in 1711.  Mr. Watson also credited a folksong as the root of the poem.

The 18th century poem(s) was put into a song form by using another old folksong and the song we sing today was born.  It has remained remarkably intact in its Old English language which is probably why so few people actually know the words or know what it means.  Still, everyone sings it… strange, yes?

Strange or not, it’s still one of my favorite songs, probably because friends, old and new, are so important to me.  It has been remade and re-recorded countless times.  It is in more movies and TV shows than one can shake a stick at.  My personal favorite, although the actual tune is not used until the very end in a sax solo, is Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne” which tells the tale of two former lovers meeting briefly and unexpectantly at a grocery store on Christmas Eve. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jt7Oxt0FQ_Q

Somehow, my dear ones, time has caught us yet again and another year passes.  So, prepare your singing chops and here is the song which everyone seems to sing and yet no one really knows.  Now, you’ll know it.

I’ve chosen the version that had the most modern English I could find without losing all the idiosyncracies we love.  Remember, at its core- in this song we drink to old friends, times lost and days gone by and we hope, we pray for a bright tomorrow.

Happy New Year, my loves and let us never forget days of auld lang syne.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?

CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

 

 

May your wishes, your hopes and your dreams come true!

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