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Random Thoughts

Old land sign

Hudson Cooper
Posted 12/31/21

The joyous holiday of Christmas brings out a bevy of songs that lift our spirits. Most of us know the words to the big hits like “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and the one about that …

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Random Thoughts

Old land sign


The joyous holiday of Christmas brings out a bevy of songs that lift our spirits. Most of us know the words to the big hits like “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and the one about that reindeer with the shiny nose.

Singing Christmas songs even brings out carolers serenading the neighborhood as dads and moms wrap up presents to place under the tree.

Now it is almost the new year, which brings out memories of days past and hopes for a good upcoming year. There are a few well known New Year’s songs such as U2’s “New Year’s Day” and Ella Fitzgerald’s “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”

But the one sung most often has to be “Auld Lang Syne,” although some might think it’s called “Old Land Sign.”

Unlike Christmas songs which have words that are easy to remember and understand, for many the meaning of “Auld Lang Syne” is a mystery. For example, here is part of the original verse. “But we’ve wander’d many a weary fit since days of auld lang syne.” Unless you are from Scotland, you probably do not know it translates into “But we’ve wandered many a weary foot since days of old long since.”

The song lyrics were collected by the Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788. I used the word “collected” because most of it was a folk song that previously had never been written down either in print or on sheet music. Burns grew up singing the tune and eventually took it upon himself to interview an older man in Scotland to collect the oral lyrics and put pen to paper. He added a verse and sent it to the Scots Musical Museum with a memo explaining how it was collected. What Burns failed to note was that the first verse is awfully close to one written by James Watson in 1711. But without having the advantage of Google nor even Ask Jeeves, Burns might not have known that his poem’s lyrics were purloined.

In any event, the song became quite popular in Scotland to be sung on New Year’s Eve. Soon it spread all over Britain eventually making its way around the world.

Most of us are familiar with the tune and feel the sentiments when we sing it as we enter the new year. But after the first few lines, it becomes one of those humming songs because we never bothered to learn the next stanza. In reality, we are satisfied with only singing the first verse.

In fact, only memorizing and singing the first verse of well known songs is not unusual for us. For example, here are some lines from a famous song’s second verse who’s opening stanza is sung by us many times a year. Bonus points are rewarded if you can identify the song. “O beautiful for Pilgrim feet, Whose stern impassioned stress, A thoroughfare for freedom beat, Across the wilderness.” Yes indeed, there are a lot of beautiful things in America. However, I have no desire to see pilgrim’s feet from sea to shining sea nor anywhere else. 

These past few years have been difficult for so many of us around the world. As we gladly leave 2021 behind, maybe it is time we fondly remember the good “auld” days. In these stressful moments, let us take the time to remember friends and family who are no longer with us. Some have passed on; others have been forgotten and exist solely as a number on our cell phone list of contacts. Lately, I have reached out to a few old acquaintances that were forgotten. After a few awkward moments, we stoked the embers of shared memories and rekindled our friendship.

So, my friends, if you forgot some old acquaintances take a moment during this holiday season and reach out to them. Do it for the sake of “Auld Lang Syne.” Wishing you a happy, healthy and safe 2022.



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