In 1788, 29-year old Scottish poet Robert Burns sat himself down and wrote a poem that he titled ‘Auld Lang Syne’, which would literally translate today into “old long since”, “long long ago”, or even “days gone by.”
It was similar in phrasing and verse to a 1711 work by James Watson, and Burns himself stated that his work was based on an older one.
The song that is traditionally sang today as we ring out an old year and ring in a new one, as we will tonight at midnight, is attributed to Burns and includes the spirit of the older Watson work with Burns own work blended into it.
In this spirit of celebrating another ‘auld lang syne’ we are remembering days or times that have gone before us. People in our lives, events, places that have been important to us. This has been the practice stretching back for a couple of hundred years now.
The Scots celebrated a new year with the song and spread this custom into England, then further on into America and around the world. It became a true New Year’s Eve staple when in 1929 band leader Guy Lombardo began to use it in his radio and later his television broadcasts as his signature song to ring in the new year.
In 1981, pop singer Dan Fogelberg released the song ‘Same Old Lang Syne’, which has become a popular radio staple here in America during the Christmas holidays. In the hauntingly melancholy Fogelberg song, the main character has a chance encounter in a grocery store on Christmas Eve with an old lover.
The two then embark on a brief reunion that afternoon over a few drinks and shared memories. But in the end, each realizes that they must move away from that moment’s reflection on ‘the good old days’ and back into the reality of their lives and their futures, which do not include one another.
As I look back on my life, there are many similar people as in the Fogelberg song. People who still hold a solid place in my heart, who in fact will always hold that place.
I look back on them in fondness from time to time, but then move forward again with my life as it is today. That those former friends and lovers are no longer an active part of that life makes most of them no less special to me.
So as I look back on 2008 tonight, there are many people and events that I will remember with fondness that are particular to this past year.
At the top of the list is a welcome to the world to my new grandson, Reznor Lydon Lloyd.
Then there are the new co-workers whom I got to know in my first year at the police department’s Advanced Training Unit. The classmates and teachers that I met during my final year at St. Joseph’s University added to my year.
On the big stage of local and world events there was the incredible World Series run of my beloved Philadelphia Phillies. In politics the emergence of a strong conservative woman in Sarah Palin was a bright spot.
Those were the “hello’s”, there are always the goodbyes. This past year, fortunately for me, there were few family members in that category. However, four of my fellow Philly cops lost their lives this year in the line of duty. My ‘auld lang syne’ will thus include Steve Liczbinski, Isabel Nazario, Pat McDonald, and Tim Simpson.
I look forward to 2009 with hope for better times for my children and grandchildren, and hope for continued health and happiness for myself and my wife Debbie.
The new year will ultimately bring incredible drama across the world, stories that we cannot envision at this moment. I hope and pray that, for the most part, they bring positive developments for most of the world’s inhabitants.
Tonight as the ball drops and the countdown ends, we will celebrate another auld lang syne. I wish you all and all of your family members a very happy, healthy, safe, fun, prosperous New Year in 2009.