After days and weeks of contemplating the last verses of various hymns and Christmas carols, there's really only one choice when it comes to New Year's Eve. All the world over, as midnight nears, people will gather and sing just one song, "Auld Lang Syne."'
But outside of Scotland, birthplace of "Auld Lang Syne" author Robert Burns, most people will not have much idea about what it all means. Most of them do not have your humble correspondent to help!
"Auld Lang Syne" is not a sad song; it's a nostalgic song. On Dec. 31, 2010, Peggy Noonan's story "Days of Auld Lang What?" in The Wall Street Journal said that the song asks "a tender little question. ... Should those we knew and loved be forgotten? Of course not, the song says."
So it's a song about remembering, with kindness and good will. That leads me -- as regular readers will have deduced -- to the last verse. It's a bit of a tangle for Americans:
And here's a hand, my trusty fiere,
and gi'e's a hand of thine,
we'll tak a richt guid willie-waught
for auld lang syne.
(Even this version in Britain's Independent newspaper uses a more modernized language; I picked up mine from the Cambridge edition of Burns' poems and from my father. Singer Andrew Bird provides backup, as it were, here.)
At gatherings of Scots and Scottish-Americans, including yours truly, the custom is to join hands for the last verse -- here's a hand, and give us a hand of yours -- and sing as cheerfully as if taking a big drink of good will, a sort of heartier "cup of kindness."
That is my wish for you, dear readers, as we head for 2018, ready or not. Thank you for reading.
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.