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Chernynkaya On December - 31 - 2010

It has come to symbolize the bittersweet moment when the clock strikes the New Year, when we mark time passing. It is a poem in Scots dialect, set to a Scots folk tune, and a lot of us don’t think much about the words, or even know them. We all know the beginning lines though: “Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and days of auld lang syne?”

Auld Lang Syne“—the phrase can be translated as “long, long ago,” or “old long since,” is a song that asks an important question that is about being alive and how we live our lives at the simplest level. And about what we mean to those we’ve encountered along the way and what they meant to us, at the end of the road.

It was written, or written down, by Robert Burns, lyric poet and Bard of Scotland.

In 1788 he sent a copy of the poem to the Scots Musical Museum, with the words: “The following song, an old song, of the olden times, has never been in print.” Burns was interested in the culture of Scotland, and collected old folk tales and poems. He said he got this one “from an old man”—no one knows who—and wrote it down. Being a writer, Burns revised and compressed. He found the phrase auld lang syne “exceedingly expressive” and thought whoever first wrote the poem “heaven inspired.” The song spread throughout Scotland, where it was sung to mark the end of the old year, and soon to the English-speaking world, where it’s sung to mark the new.

The question it asks is clear: Should those we knew and loved be forgotten and never thought of? Should old times past be forgotten? No, says the song, they shouldn’t be. We’ll remember those times and those people, we’ll toast them now and always, we’ll keep them close. “We’ll take a cup of kindness yet.”

The song is not only about those who were in your life, but those who are in your life. “And there’s a hand, my trusty friend, and give a hand of thine, We’ll take a right good-will draught for auld lang syne.”

Those are the essentials, I think, at the end of a year and why I believe this song is so enduring. What can I say? I get sentimental!

A little more history of the poem and song, along with interesting translations here:


Shall we sing along with this?– it has the words:



Written by Chernynkaya

I am an artist and have lived in Los Angeles all of my life, except for a brief hippie period when I lived in SF. I am currently (semi-unwillingly) retired, but have had several careers.

46 Responses so far.

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  1. Questinia says:

    Cher, I really try to remember! For instance, I live in an old house. With research I found that a woman died here giving birth to her tenth child (who was then given her mother’s name, Julianna) in 1825. I found she is buried up the hill in a very old small cemetery. Her headstone is very lovely, it’s an obelisk in fact. I say hi to her and tell her I haven’t forgotten. I actually had to work to find her and she was a surprise!

    • Smirnonn says:

      What a beautiful story! My first house was an old duplex which was built in a blue-collar neighborhood in the late 1800’s. I got curious whenever I did work on it because I’d find little artifacts like German language newspapers used for insulation (the area had a lot of German immigrants), an old beer bottle sealed in the wall (presumably from the lunch break of a construction worker), etc. I went to the local historical society and to my delight the old phone books had reverse lookup -- I could search the addresses of the duplex and find out the names AND professions of the occupants. It fascinated me to think of all of the everyday and special occurrences that happened in my house and how impermanent everything really is.

      • bito says:

        Smirnonn, I was a Union carpenter for many years and have done some historical rehabs along with work on my own house, built in 1897. Workmen and carpenters have a custom of leaving messages inside the wall structures, and I kept up the tradition, just wondering if you ran across any of them. Sort of like an artist signing their work? I have seen some where they talked about their families, their day, their lunch and usually signed and dated. I liked doing it and finding them.

        Great that you are exploring the site and the older posts. We have some very good writers here. Welcome to The Planet.

      • Chernynkaya says:

        Wow, smirnonn-- how cool that you’re rummaging through our older posts! and I never even saw that reply from Questinia--so thanks!

  2. escribacat says:

    Nice post, Cher. I always wondered what that phrase meant. I am one of those people who often seems to end up feeling crappy at the holidays so I’m just relieved that it’s all over with. I think it’s that manic happy-happy-happy stuff going on everywhere that makes me think, “I don’t feel that way, what’s wrong with me?” I’m having my kitchen renovated and my house is in total disarray so maybe that’s why I feel down. Who knows? It’s probably just brain chemistry. I’m picking up a new foster greyhound from a filthy depressing greyhound kennel (aka internment camp) tomorrow — maybe that will snap me out of it.

    • Khirad says:

      I think the people that throw themselves into the manic cheerfulness the most are sometimes the unhappiest of all.

      So, let that make you feel a little better.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      E’Cat, I know how you feel! I usually feel out of step with the festivities. I also remember how messed up I felt when my kitchen was being renovated--it’s so disorienting. I loved your post the last time you rescued those doggies, and I know that is the perfect way to start the new year!

      About the disconnect between a holiday and our feelings at the time, let me share something from my religious studies past (although it is not a necessarily religious concept)that helped me deal with the disconnect I usually feel. In the liturgical calendar, there are celebrations and there are somber days-- same in the secular year. I was taught that, even if our mood doesn’t correspond to those days’ emotional overtones, we should still try to get in the spirit. The reasoning is, we should attempt to live a life of a full emotional spectrum. The holidays can allow us-- indeed, to require us-- to do that. It’s kind of like that Ecclesiastes text: “To every thing there is a season…”

      Sermon over. :-) Happy New Year, E’cat! My best wishes to you and yours.

      • escribacat says:

        Thanks, Cher. That really makes a lot of sense. I always try to make a point to get out of my comfort zone fairly often (eg, do something new) as a way of growing and developing. I never thought of applying the same idea to one’s emotional life! I will have to think about this one some more.

  3. Khirad says:

    Haste ye back, we loo you dearly
    Call again, you’re welcome here.
    May your days be free from sorrow,
    And your friends be ever near.
    May the path on which you wander
    Be to you a joy each day.
    Haste ye back, we loo you dearly
    Haste ye back on friendship’s way.

    -- Andy Stewart

    Can’t find this on YouTube, though. Apparently it was a Scottish TV Hogmanay tradition to end the show with it.

  4. Khirad says:

    I saw this posted today on my Pipe Band’s newsgroup (I’ve so far only been to one practice, but noticed one of the pipers is indeed from Scotland).

    Happy Hogmany everyone. This is your “nerdy” which means near the day. Some people in Scotland will give gifts and say “this is for your nerdy”. Now fyi in Scotland they have a new years custom and it starts at midnight and this is how it goes. Right after the bells and it’s happy new year all around,we open a window and let the old year out.Then we open the door and let the new year in. We then close the window,then the door. Then you can wait for the first foot to come through the door. The first footer ideally would be a man with black hair and he should have with him some food and drink. Also in my younger days the first footer had a piece of coal. This forcast good fortune for the rest of the year. If the first foot had nothing,this forecast bad tidings, and the festivities would have a serious gloom cast over them. However all would not be lost if the person who lived in the house was concerned beforehand,and to avoid such disappointment,would be his own first foot. He or she would take some food and drink outside and close the door. Then they would knock the door and be admitted to their own house, being their own first foot with food and drink would assure that all would be well for that new year. Now are you not glad to be plied with all that useless information? Regardless I shall be performing the custom at midnight. When I see you I will wish you all a happy new year and not before. So I’ll say cheerio the noo my friends.

    • kesmarn says:

      Khirad, I’ll bet those Pipe Band practice sessions are great fun. Lotsa members?

      Our community chorus sang at a Robert Burns dinner a few years ago, and there were pipers there, too. It was lovely. (A number of the guys who were dining wore their kilts.)

      One the favorite tunes we sang was “Skye Boat Song”:

      • Khirad says:

        If ye no wear yer kilt fer the Burns supper, then when dae ye?

        It numbers under two dozen. Just split from another band, was lookin’ for drummers, and I just so happen to have experience drumming in a previous pipe band a few years back — though I’m nervous because I’m quite rusty.

        My last one sometimes practiced outside smack dab in downtown Portland. It was fun to catch the look on all the faces of passers-by.

        • kesmarn says:

          Our community chorus would sometimes go out to a local restaurant after practice, and would occasionally burst into song (before YouTube). Fellow diners were amused. (We hope… not irritated!)

    • Chernynkaya says:

      I knew nothing about that, Khirad-- thank you!! So enriching.

    • bito says:

      Sounds like some pure Wiking paganism too me!!

      • Khirad says:

        They burn a Viking ship in Edinburgh too, at its culmination.

        Not only gave Scots blond and red hair, but a good deal of customs, too.

  5. whatsthatsound says:

    best sung with one glass of Drambuie in hand and one already warming the belly!

  6. kesmarn says:

    Dear Cher, what a lovely presentation of a sweet old song. I’ve often thought that the poignant Beatles tune “In My Life” had lyrics that captured something of the same feeling. I thought of posting the YouTube video, but maybe simply glancing at the words will be more meaningful:

    There are places I remember
    All my life though some have changed
    Some forever not for better
    Some have gone and some remain
    All these places had their moments
    With lovers and friends I still can recall
    Some are dead and some are living
    In my life I’ve loved them all

    But of all these friends and lovers
    There is no one compares with you
    And these memories lose their meaning
    When I think of love as something new
    Though I know I’ll never lose affection
    For people and things that went before
    I know I’ll often stop and think about them
    In my life I love you more

    Though I know I’ll never lose affection
    For people and things that went before
    I know I’ll often stop and think about them
    In my life I love you more
    In my life I love you more

    • KillgoreTrout says:

      One of the best Lennon/McCartney songs ever. But, they had so many. But this one always put a lump in my throat.

    • kesmarn says:

      OMG, Cher!

      I hadn’t had a chance to skim through the Friday night music thread before I posted this. But I discovered this morning that you had posted this very song as the Beatles’ version of “Auld Lang Syne.” Honest, I had no idea you had made the same connection! Of all the songs in the world, what are the odds? 😀

      • Chernynkaya says:

        Kes-- great minds…!! The Beatles song is the most poignant for me and I think of it so often.

      • bito says:

        k’es, How can you type and watch “The Twilight Zone” marathon? :-)

        • kesmarn says:

          You remembered, b’ito! I only just turned it on. 😳 12:15 here and I am still in my jammies! My mother (an early to bed/early to rise person) would be horrified.

          How will I ever get to be healthy, wealthy and wise?

          Now…off to the showers with me!

  7. Mightywoof says:

    Happy New Year Cher! I love Auld Lang Syne even thought I’m from England -- happy memories of family no longer with us. On night’s like this I think of them with a small touch of sadness but, like Kalima, I shall look forward to the next year whatever it may bring!

  8. Khirad says:

    The post I always thought about writing.

    I can’t say I learned anything, but I’m indebted to you for taking a load off me. 😉

    Ye cannae forgit Hogmanay thocht!


    Indeed, New Year’s Eve is the Scottish festival everyone knows about and celebrates with blatantly Scottish elements (Burns, drinking, helloooo?!), and yet no one seems to know it’s Scottish!

    Ach! The English must be behind it, somehow.

  9. Questinia says:

    What do you all think the confetti tossers walkie-talkie each other before they throw it over the skyscrapers in NYC?

    (I happen to know cause I knew a confetti thrower)

    What a beautiful picture Cher!

  10. Kalima says:

    Happy New Year Cher to you and yours.

    The words are always special, and sung every year around the U.K. with teary eyes. This year when I heard it was particularly poignant after losing the love of my life Coco so suddenly, and if not for the fickle finger of fate, maybe my father too on the 16th of December. So I have a lot to be grateful for, and will try to enter my new year as I always do, with my glass half full, and my eyes on the floor to ensure no more crashes into chair legs and wooden floors, resulting in head bumps this year.

    I’m ready for 2011, whatever it might throw my way, and will treasure the good times as if they were my last.

  11. javaz says:

    Thank you, Cher, for researching this and posting it.

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