Around Midnight
Around Midnight
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In When Harry Met Sally, Billy Crystal’s baffled Harry wonders about Auld Lang Syne, “What does this song mean? My whole life, I don’t know what this song means. I mean, ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot?’ Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances. Or does it mean that if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot them?”


“Well, maybe it just means that we should remember that we forgot them or something,” Sally reasons. “Anyway, it’s about old friends.”


The old Scots song has turned into an international anthem, and so gracefully evokes a sense of nostalgia this time of the year, as millions of us begin the clock-watching vigil that ends around midnight as we raise our voices in song to ring in the new year.


The song has its roots in an old Scottish ballad about a disappointed lover and a popular dance tune that evoked a country wedding.

 It was Robert Burns (1759–1796), the great eighteenth-century Scottish bard, who transformed the old song for publication. He devoted the last ten years of his short life to collecting old verses, revising and “mending” as he saw fit, even composing poetry to accompany popular airs. When Burns turned his attention to Auld Lang Syne, he claimed – and this is the true measure of the man, who could well have claimed it as all his own original work – merely to have transcribed the words from hearing “an old man’s singing” on the street.


Yet despite its strong association with New Year’s Eve, Auld Lang Syne was never intended as a holiday song. We have to blame the Americans for this. Guy Lombardo is credited with popularising the song when his band used it as a segue between two radio programs during a live performance at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York in 1929. By coincidence, they played Auld Lang Syne just after the clock hit midnight, and thus a New Year’s tradition was born. And its holiday credentials was further reinforced by being played during the final scene of Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life.


So, as you surround yourself with friends old and new tonight to welcome in 2014, sing on – but do try the original Burns version:


Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

and never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

and auld lang syne?



For auld lang syne, my jo,

for auld lang syne,

well tak a cup o kindness yet,

for auld lang syne.

And surely yell be your pint-stowp!

and surely Ill be mine!

And well tak a cup o kindness yet,

for auld lang syne.




We twa hae run about the braes,

and pud the gowans fine;

But weve wanderd mony a weary fit,

sin auld lang syne.




We twa hae paidld i’ the burn,

frae morning sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roard

sin auld lang syne.




And theres a hand, my trusty fiere!

and gie’s a hand o thine!

And well tak a right gude-willy waught,

for auld lang syne.





A Happy New Year to All!



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