And Days of Auld Lang Syne

By Judy Andreas
It's almost December 31st, a perfect time for me to contemplate the arrival of baby number 2005. Please don't misunderstand, I am referring to the New Year, not an addition to my family.
People are poised on the edge of 2004 awaiting the fall of the ball into the beginning of 2005. "Happy New Year" will be shouted from gatherings all over the United States as people hug and kiss friends and strangers. The strains of the curious song Auld Lang Syne will echo across the country. Nobody has ever given me a reasonable explanation as to why "old acquaintances" should be "forgot" as December 31st turns into January 1st. Personally, I think it sounds rather ageist........ especially as I grow closer to becoming one of those "old" acquaintances.
Restaurants will raise their already elevated prices in honor of the New Year. It's a good time to fleece the sheeple. Perhaps everyday is a good time for that, but people are more agreeable to being robbed blind as they ring out the old.
Some cynics say that the holiday was started by the liquor industry as an excuse for one major year end toot. Hats and horns and scotch and soda the train of holiday festivities races towards its destination....the New Year. The paper trail, absent during the election, will now be strewn over the streets.
I don't mean to sound sacrilegious, however I can't help but question what all this noise is about. What's the history of the tradition? I turn to my computer for the answer.
Interestingly enough, the first New Year seems to have made its appearance in ancient Babylon and not on January 1st. In the years around 2000 BC, the Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon (the first visible crescent) after the Vernal Equinox (the first day of spring). Celebrating the new year at springtime seems logical to me. After all, it is the season of rebirth, of planting new crops, and of blossoming. Can you envision Times Square filled with drunken celebrants on a nice balmy spring night? I's not a pretty picture at any time of year, however, some traditions just should not be tampered with. The choice of January 1st was purely arbitrary ...having no astronomical nor agricultural significance.
Baby New Year as a symbol, was born in Greece around 600 BC. To celebrate their god of wine, Dionysus, the Greeks paraded a baby in a basket. It represented the annual rebirth of the god as the spirit of fertility.
The early Catholic Church condemned the holiday as paganism and remained in oppostion through the Middle Ages. Ultimately, the popularity of the "bundle of joy" forced the Church to re-evaluate its position and, once again, it succumbed to the pagan influence as Baby New Year was born.
We can thank Robert Burns for the song "Auld Lang Syne:" Though early variations were sung prior to 1700, it was Burns who produced the modern rendition. And so today......people sip their Scotch to the old Scotch tune, which literally means "old long ago," or simply, "the good old days."
What does the New Year mean to us? Is it merely a time to turn the calendar, have one too many and party hearty? Is it a time to "ring in the new" with our faces in the toilet bowl? Or....can we find a deeper signifance in this ancient ritual. Some would say that this is a time to reflect back upon the past year and make resolutions for the coming one. Interestingly, this tradition too dates back to the early Babylonians. However, their most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment.
"Sorry about the tractor. I meant to return it sooner."
Now...there's a resolution I could keep. It sure sounds a lot easier than losing weight or quitting smoking. As I've said, some things just shouldn't be tampered with. 2005 looms on the horizon, and "what are you doing new years?" plays on your radio........what are your plans? Are you going to eat, drink and be merry with most of the populace or are you going to have a more introspective relationship with the new birth ?
For me, the choice is obvious. I cannot look at the current world situation apart from myself. I cannot resolve merely to hope for a better tomorrow for myself and my loved ones.
The New Year whispers promises of new beginnings. I resolve to extend my boundaries beyond personal comfort into a world that is suffering; a world that is in dire need of rebirth. I invite you to join me. Perhaps we can make a real difference in the year 2005.
Happy New Year.
Copyright 2004 Judy Andreas



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