William A Gardner
Culture and Societies
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Days of Auld Lang Syne
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and ne'er brought to mind,
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and days of auld lang syne - Robbie Burns
Robbie Burns was a particularly handsome and entertaining Scotsman - the sort of person who made any occasion special. His Auld Lang Syne lament, published in 1788, was taken from an oral tradition in the Highlands stretching further back at least two hundred years. Thus the singing of this lament potentially dates back some five hundred years. Today we are lucky, for when it was originally sung there would often be friends and family, and children too, who might not have survived the year due to disease, accidents and conflict.
The phrase "auld lang syne" translates literally as "old long since", which can be interpreted as "days gone by". It is sung with nostalgia and hope, remembering the year past with its trials, triumphs and disappointments, and hoping for peace and prosperity in the year to come. Today, wherever friends gather on New Year's Eve, the singing is a favorite tradition at midnight - a version of the one-minute silence - sung for events shrinking in the rear-view mirror, and good friends living or passed. It is a reminder to all people of the passing of time, that life is finite, and that we should make good use of the time that is given us.
A member of my family tree, Sir William Murray, was an acquaintance of Robbie Burns. He and his wife Augusta entertained Robert on more than one occasion during the 1780's at Ochtertyre, Scotland, a place not far from Stirling where the first battle of Scottish independence took place. Robbie was particularly handsome and entertaining - the sort of guest who would make any occasion special. He was a favorite of the ladies and a great source of entertaining recitations. One can imagine the laughter, singing, and celebration as Scots gathered with fiddle and bagpipes to mark some occasion at the manor at Ochtertyre.
But even more important than a moment of soulful remembrance, it is a time to lay the groundwork of hope for the future. Our world is facing many challenges, especially in the areas of finance and culture. It will be a time for caution as well as action. There is a darkness afoot. The Twenties will be a test for our society, our country, and the world. Hold your friends and family close for you will need each other in the years to come.
Thanks to my readers who I hope have found my writings entertaining and informative over the past year. My best wishes to you for a happy and prosperous New Year.