As we close out the old year and welcome in the new one, I’d like to share with you my favorite version of “Auld Lang Syne,” performed by James Taylor. I confess to listening to this haunting yet hopeful tune when I’m feeling reflective year-round, not just during the holidays.
According to Wikipedia, the original poem that provides the lyrics was written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788. The music is a traditional folk song. In fact, the origins of the song may stretch back to an earlier ballad printed by James Watson in 1711. However you figure it, that’s a lot of New Year’s Eves ago.
But what does it mean? The original Scottish title can be loosely translated to “long, long ago,” “old times,” or “days gone by.” The lyrics ask whether old times, and old friends, should be forgotten. They seem to remind us, in the words of a traditional camp song, to “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver, and the other gold.” It’s sung on New Year’s Eve in English-speaking countries around the world, and played on other occasions as well.
As family historians, we do our best to keep the memories of old times, and the legends of people who lived long gone, alive. We are preservationists at heart. The message of “Auld Lang Syne” is one that speaks to what we do each time we research and tell the stories of our ancestors. When you think about it, it could be the patron song of genealogists.
I hope you enjoy this rendition of “Auld Lang Syne.” May you enjoy a new year filled with peace, prosperity, good health, and good times!