The story behind famous New Year's Eve song

Auld Lang Syne

Here we are, at the end of another year.

Now that all the hustle and bustle of Christmas is done, it’s time to focus on winding up the year in style. There is reminiscing to do and the setting of new goals.

When it comes down to ringing in the New Year, we all kiss and toast and for some reason we sing “Auld Lang Syne”. Do you know why? (If you do, don’t give it away.)

This week I’m going to explain the history of that, and some other New Year’s customs.

The Scots and their Hogmanay holiday (what we call New Year’s) are where many of our current customs originate. I’m proud to say as a half-Scottish girl, Auld Lang Syne was written by the famous Scottish poet, Robbie Burns.

It is said Burns added to an ancient folk song that spoke of the value of remembering old friendships (the title translates loosely to “for old times’ sake”. In Scotland, the song is sung at the stroke of midnight with everyone holding hands in a circle. When the emigration of Scots to the New World happened in the 19th century, the song went with them.

Guy Lombardo inadvertently introduced the song in America at New Year’s 1929. It was played in the transition between his televised concerts on the East and West Coasts It was also one of the three songs sung by soldiers on both sides of First World War lines during the Christmas truce.

Its combination of melancholy, nostalgia and hopefulness seems to always strike a chord.

Food and drink are a big part of New Year’s gatherings around the world, and in accordance with culture and tradition symbols of prosperity and luck are often highlighted in the menu.

• Pork is a symbol of good fortune and progress, because it is a rich meat with fat, and the animal pushes forward, rooting itself as it moves. Serving pork at New Year’s helps to bring a year of happiness.

• Consuming 12 grapes in Spain is said to forecast each month’s tone (sweet grapes mean good fortune, sour ones not so much).

• Pulses are popular. In the American South, black-eyed peas mean humility and the good karma from that brings good fortune. In Italy, an abundance of tiny lentils represents abundance in other things.

• Cooked greens are good. They look like “greenbacks”, and anything representing money could help, right? Coin-shaped foods are good for the same reason.

• Eating ring-shaped foods such as donuts signifies coming full circle and promotes good fortune.

• Rich desserts, such as items topped with whipped cream or dipped in honey, also represent good fortune.

• Wine has an association to many religious festivities, as well as to many pagan rituals. It has long been the way to “seal the deal” with toasts when groups gather. Champagne has been a status symbol since the 18th century, so its place at New Year’s parties needs no explanation.

Using the same philosophy, one should not eat lobster or chicken (some say any winged fowl) at New Year’s, as those animals move backwards and so would represent a lack of progress.

In the spirit of showcasing wealth and prosperity, it is best if you leave some food on your plate. One could take this as a suggestion not to be greedy as well, I suppose.

Gifts of food and sustenance at New Year’s wish the recipient good fortune, too. Having food on the table and in the cupboard before the stroke of midnight means you will be well prepared for the coming year.

New Year’s is a combination of celebrating another year with friends and loved ones, and planning (or at least wishing) for a successful new year to come.

May you experience the good fortune said to come from at least a few of our customs, and here’s hoping you have someone to hold, perhaps even kiss, when that familiar song starts to play

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,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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