At the end of the year, there is always a flurry of “Year’s End Top 10” lists. Google did it, heck, even the News Tribune is not immune to the call. Some might be sick of the lists, but they play an important role in our cultural history. The lists demarcate a boundary between the year we leave behind, and the one that is to come.
Another mainstay of the New Year celebrations is the New Year’s resolution. But why do we resolve today? As long as we’re on the topic of New Year’s traditions, what’s with that song “Auld Lang Syne”? Where does it come from, and what does it really mean?
History: Rough draft
The origin of the phrase “journalism is the first rough draft of history” might itself be lost to history, but its truth remains no less evident for it.
This, Eh? believes, is the reason for the popularity of the yearly “Best of” lists so pervasive in newspapers and, now, websites. They are a last snapshot of where humanity made progress and losses over the year. A final look at the rough draft before it is consumed by the sea of “history.”
Resolve to do it, now
Some people make New Year’s resolutions, and some people don’t.
But there are some studies that indicate big days, like New Year’s Day, can create an idea in people that personal imperfections can be relegated to the past, and aspirational new behaviors can be learned.
Katherine Milkman, an assistant professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, along with other researchers, are set to publish a research paper in “Management Science” in 2014 that deals with what they are calling “The Fresh Start Effect.”
Milkman and colleagues found that “people create more new goals at the beginning of the month and year as compared with the end of the month and year.”
Codifying, in effect, what everyone already knew: New Year’s is the time for resolutions.
Perhaps nothing confuses people so much as the song “Auld Lang Syne” (pronounced “sign” not “zine”), and why such a song might ask people to forget their acquaintances at the beginning of a new year.
The song got its start as a Scots poem written by Robert Burns in 1788. The poem was set to a pentatonic scale to become the song we now sing in a semi-lucid state at the death and rebirth of the calendar year.
For starters, “Auld Lang Syne” translates literally as “old long since” but more colloquially, as “old times.”
Surprisingly, to Eh? at least, is the fact that the lyrics are more of a rhetorical jab than a request.
Should we just forget our friends?
Consider the final stanza:
And there’s a hand my trusty friend.
And give me a hand o’ thine.
And we’ll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne.
The poem/song is, like all works of art, open to interpretation, but read the lyrics for yourself, and see if they don’t strike you as a reaffirmation of friendship.