This is part 31 of an Advent/Christmas series titled “Songs of Christmas.” For other parts of the series see the index. The index also contains the introduction for the series.
Well, today we bring the year 2016 to a close. We also bring this series, “Songs of Christmas” to an end. And, we are closing out “Songs of Christmas” with a song that isn’t a Christmas song at all. But, it is a song of the season. We opened this series with an Advent song, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and we are closing it with a New Year’s Eve song, “Auld Lang Syne.”
Many people get confused about the song. Perhaps that is because our traditions that encircle the song are confusing. Because we sing this song after “the ball drops” and we begin a new year, that it is a song ushering out the old and welcoming in the new. Well, that is half right. It is a song where we are saying goodbye to the old. Truthfully, I am not even sure why we sing the song. It tends to make, at least some of us cry even though we don’t know what it means and if you are anything like me, you don’t know all the words either. Just so you know, the title roughly translates as, “for old time’s sake.” It also doesn’t help the confusion when the words of the song have evolved some over time.
In 1788, the Scottish poet Robert Burns sent the Scots Musical Museum “Auld Lang Syne” in the form of a poem. He claimed it was an ancient folk song but that he was the first one to commit it to paper. He claimed that the song had passed from generation to generation, from parent to child for many, many years.
Burns’ claim of an ancient folk song was true but it was not true that he was the first to write the song down. The first known writing of the song was by James Watson in 1711.
There is also a belief that the tune we sing the song to today, “Roud 1694,” is not the song originally used with “Auld Lang Syne.” That tune, at least for now, is lost to history.
So, how did a song that has a murky history and nothing at all to do with New Year’s Eve become the song of New Year’s Eve? Well it probably has something to do with Guy Lombardo. In 1929 Lombardo and his band played “Auld Lang Syne” as transitional music while performing at New York City’s Roosevelt Hotel during a New Year’s Eve broadcast. It was played just after midnight, and heard over radio and television airwaves, inadvertently spawning a global tradition. Today, “Auld Lang Syne” is one of the most recognizable songs around the world.
There us one way I believe we can put “Auld Lang Syne” to good use as a New Year’s song. Perhaps it could be our first New Year’s resolution (a series we will start tomorrow), to reunite with those friends, family and acquaintances before they are forgotten. We just might find true blessing from God in the words and in the re-acquaintance.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Peace,
Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved