Jewish World Review Dec. 31, 2002 / 26 Teves, 5763

Greg Crosby

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Auld Lang Syne | Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

How many of us grew up hearing these words sung on New Year's Eve? For many generations it was Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians who would usher in the new year at the stroke of twelve with that song from the grand ballroom at New York's Waldorf Astoria. But the words existed long before Mr. Lombardo, written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788 (or 1789, depending upon the source).

Most of us know the lyrics by heart, as we do the "Happy Birthday" song, although we might not exactly know the literal meaning of these old Scotch words. As a kid, I remember thinking as I sang the song, "what the heck is 'auld lang syne,' anyway?" Not surprisingly, the words mean just what you might have guessed. Auld means old. Lang means long. Syne means since. So literally it means "old long since." A time long ago. Let's examine the song phrase by phrase.

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!"

With these first lines the poem asks, "should we forget our old acquaintances? Should we forget those from our past? And should we forget the old times? The times of long ago? Of course, we shouldn't. At New Year's Eve it is appropriate to remember back to the people and events that shaped our lives.

"For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne!

So, in memory of past times -- in memory of those people and events of yesteryear, let us lift our glass and toast them with kind thoughts and appreciation. As we prepare to go on to a new year, a year of challenges yet to be known, of new joys and new sorrows, let us not forget the past. As we start our new adventure into the next year, let us acknowledge and salute the times of "old long since." For auld Lang syne.

In that spirit of remembering people of the past, Milton Berle was one of show biz's greats who passed away just this last year. Berle had a library of jokes that was considered the most comprehensive storehouse of 20th-century humor in the world. He had a joke for anything, including, of course, New Year's and New Year's Eve. Here are a few of them:

Last year, we toasted the New Year at my home. My wife had rye and I had whole wheat.
I take New Year's with a grain of salt, and three aspirin!
There's only one thing more depressing than staying home on New Year's Eve. That's going out on New Year's Eve!
There's a new thing that sobers people up after a lot of New Year's drinking. It's called the check!
I know that the New Year's party is over when I can lie on the floor without holding on!

Happy New Year!

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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© 2001 Greg Crosby