The good auld days

Posted By | December 27, 2001 12:00 am

Emily Moorehead
Auld Lang Syne, the traditional New Year’s Eve song, is sung at the stroke of mid-night across countless global time lines.
Partial credit goes to Scottish poet Robert Burns whose lyrics for the song
were published in 1796, after his death.
Some historians believe early folk variations of the song inspired Burns to pen the lyrics known today, for the phrase “auld lang syne” translates literally as “old long ago,” or “the good old days.”
Burns work bears a striking resemblance to a ballad by an earlier poet, Sir Robert Ayton (1570-1638) which begins:
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never thought upon,
The flames of love extinguished,
And freely past and gone?
Is thy kind heart now grown so cold
In that loving breast of thine,
That thou canst never once reflect
On old-long-syne?”
Whatever the origins of the lyrics, the song has become permanently married to America’s New Year celebrations, though the date, January 1, was chosen in 46 BC by Roman Emperor Julius Caesar when he created his calendar.
Previously in 153 BC, the Roman Senate had attempted to name the day thusly, but it wasn’t until Caesar decided 47 BC should contain 445 days that the January 1 date became the day most English-speaking people celebrate the new year.
January was the prime month for Caesar’s choice of the date for more than one reason; the Roman god, Janus, after which January was named, is always pictured with two heads.
One looks to the right and the other to the left, and representing “looking back and forward” at the same time, which is exactly what people do on New Year’s Eve when they review the year passed and get ready for the year to come.
A symbol of yearly rebirth, the New Year is celebrated in different fashions around the globe, and on different dates:
– Ancient Egypt – the new year’s celebration fell in September, when the Nile flooded.
This was a celebration of the land’s rebirth for the flooding renewed the dry desert, making it possible for crops to once again be grown.
– Babylonia – the celebration took place in the Spring when the reigning King would be stripped of his clothes and sent away for a short time.
During his absence, the people would celebrate.
Then, when he returned in new finery, it was the signal for the people to return to their work.
– Rome – the New Year festival was called the Calends, and people would decorate their homes and exchange presents.
Both masters and slaves were as one class during the celebration, and would frequently share meals with one another.
– Celts – the festival of Samhain took place at the end of October. Samhain means “summer’s end,” and mistletoe was placed everywhere in an effort to keep ghosts away, for the Celts thought theyspirits would return on Sanhaim to haunt the living.
– Jewish – called Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year occurs
on the first and second days of Tishri.
The Bible refers to the holiday as Yom Ha-Zikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the shofar, an instrument made from a ram’s horn).
The holiday is instituted in Leviticus 23:24-25. It is a holy time when people review their bad deeds, and promise to improve their behavior in the future.
– Muslim – celebrated in in March, people put grains of barley or wheat in small receptacles to grow a few weeks before the event.
By the time the new year arrives, the grains have produced shoots which serve to remind the celebrants of a new year of life.
– India – in Gujarat, in western India, New Year is celebrated at the end of October, at the same time as the festival of Diwali, when small oil lights are lit all along the roofs of buildings.
At New Year, Hindus think particularly of the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi.
– Vietnam – called Tet Nguyen Dan or Tet for short, the Vietnamese new year begins between January 21 and February 19, and the exact day changes from year to year.
They believe there is a god in every home, and at the New Year this god travels to heaven.
There he will say how good or bad each member of the family has been in the past year.
– Japan – New Year is celebrated on January 1, but the Japanese also draw from their Shinto past.
They hang
ropes of straw across the front of their houses which stand for happiness and good luck.
The moment the New Year begins, the people laugh, for it is thought this will bring them good luck in the new year.
– China – celebrated between January 17 and February 19, when the new moon appears, the Chinese New Year is called Yuan Tan.
Celebrated by Chinese people around the globe with a festival of lanterns, firecrackers are lit in hopes evil spirits will be frightened away.
Also, paper is often times sealed over windows for additional protection in keeping away evil spirits.
– Austria and Switzerland – the celebration is also known as Saint Sylvester’s Eve.
A Pope called Saint Sylvester was believed to have captured a sea serpent in 314 AD, and the prediction accompanying the supposed capture was that the beast would escape in the year 1000 AD, and destroy the world.
Since that did not occur, this story is remembered at New Year, and people dress up in costumes to celebrate.
– Greece – the Festival of Saint Basil is also celebrated on this day.
Known country-wide for his kindness, it is hoped Saint Basil will fill the shoes of Greek children with gifts.
Towards that goal, the children leave their shoes by the fire on New Year’s day.
– Scotland – New Year is called Hogmanay and, in some towns, residents will set fire to barrels of tar and roll them through the streets to signify the burning of the old year.
Also, they believe in a custom called first-footing: the first person to enter their house in the New Year will bring good or bad luck, and it is considered very good luck if the visitor is a dark-haired man bringing a gift.
The song, Auld Lang Syne is always sung at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
And in America? Football, football and football marks New Year’s Day celebrations across the United States, plus a few parades created around the sport.
The gods of football appear on sacred fields on New Year’s Day, and many prayers are offered in their names.
And, while Americans do not think of crops or evil spirits when preparing for their family New Year festivities, eating too many snacks during the football games does tempt an evil spirit of Heartburn.
New Year’s Day has been celebrated as an American holiday for almost 400 years and, like other new year celebrations, it is a time of rebirth – the rebirth of personal purpose, and a time to pause and reflect on past personal choices.
Focusing on a safe New Year’s Eve celebration guarantees a happy New Year’s Day.
It is prudent to celebrate responsibly, and this includes never getting behind the wheel of a vehicle when the consuming of alcoholic spirits has occurred.
Sources: M. Jausten, John Shepler.
Auld Lang Syne
By Robert Burns
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
And here’s a hand, my trusty friend
And gie’s a hand o’ thine
We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne.

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