Perhaps it is the remarkable amount of Scottish blood that runs through my veins, but New Year’s Eve has always been of great import in the McElwee household. Ever since I was a little girl, I have known that it was a night for gathering with friends. Good food. Excellent drink. Playing together. And really, really entertaining singing.
You see, as a child, my family and I used to always get together with the same family – that of my parents’ best friends, who had children about my age. And each year we would watch an old recording of Last Night of the Proms, which is the last in a series of patriotic summer concerts put on by the BBC across the pond. Of course, this recording was from the late 1970s or early 1980s, before I was born. Very grainy. Bit old school. What is more, as the evening wore on during this concert, it became clear that the patrons, especially those in the balcony, were becoming more and more “British,” as we say in my household, and nearly falling out of said balcony.
There were always two songs that we watched. Rule Britannia, with its endless verses, in order to watch said patrons falling out of the balcony. And Auld Lang Syne. Because it was New Years – and it’s what you do. Period.
First written down in its full form by Robert Burns in 1788, this Scottish poem is based on a folk song that is far older. In the centuries since, it has become the song that signifies the end of important events. That includes graduations, funerals, important concerts, and, of course, old years. The words themselves, auld lang syne, literally translated mean either “long long ago” or “days gone by.”
So this year, as we begin a new chapter in all of our stories, let us raise a toast to the days we have survived, the lives of those who have made them so memorable and complete, and give thanks for the new road that lies ahead of us.