By Geoffrey Kaiser, Marquette High School Principal

From The Past

Written in a combination of English and 18th-century Scots, Auld Lang Syne has helped Americans ring in the new year since 1939.  It was then that Guy Lombardo and his orchestra, The Royal Canadians, started a New Year’s Eve radio show and played this song as the clock hit midnight in Manhattan.  He carried on this tradition for nearly 40 years and when Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve started, the song continued to be played as the ball dropped.  We continue to play Auld Lang Syne on many TV stations and at holiday parties as a tradition, and the version you’ll hear most is the one that Guy Lombardo played so many years ago.

The song wasn’t written as a nod to the new year; instead as a remembrance of Scottish culture after the creation of Great Britain.  Still, the simple and melodic nature of the tune make it easy to sing and remember.  The tune’s pace has been slowed from the original sprightly dance but the words have remained nostalgic.  Interestingly, before it was popularized as a ballad of the new year, it helped to celebrate other transitional periods.  Shirley Temple sang it to a dying soldier in the 1937 film “Wee Willie Winkie.”  You could hear it sung aloud at graduations.  South Korea’s National Anthem was set to the same tune and in Japan, a popular version of the song called “Hotaru no Hikari,” is a tribute to fireflies.

Here in America, the song we know roughly translates to “For Old Times’ Sake” and the first words bring a rhetorical question, “Should old acquaintance be forgot?” So in the poem first published by Robert Burns in 1788, we aren’t asked to forget our friends, but instead, we are called to raise a cup to celebrate old times and good memories.  We’ll start the year with a cup of kindness for what has been.

To The Present

The New Year’s Celebration I anticipate will be a small one.  Kelsey and I might struggle to stay awake, but I’m sure our 6-week-old will help us in those efforts.  As the clock strikes midnight, I’ll play Auld Lang Syne (we like the James Taylor version) and Kelsey and I will sing along.  We’ll raise a glass of wine or water to the memories of 2020.  Although apart from our families and acquaintances, we’ll be toasting our first responders, those in healthcare, those in our schools, those in our farms and fields, those in our small stores and restaurants, to all those who kept our country running as the world slowed down.  We’ll bring to mind the parents and grandparents who continued to care for children when schools couldn’t hold classes on campus, all who made sacrifices for the sake of others, new life on this earth, and those who left us during the year.

2020 has, undeniably, been a trying year – yet it is still worth raising that cup to the passing of the year, for the people and the lessons that we will remember.  I remind myself that the world doesn’t go back-to-normal the instant that 2021 is upon us.  Being patient is a virtue and I base a resolution towards my growth in this area.  We will continue to learn from 2020 and our children will see how eager we have been to grow and it may inspire them to do the same.  I hope I’ve already grown in my appreciation for the ‘little things,’ the people that I care about most dearly, the opportunity to work and serve, and for my health and wellbeing.

To The Future:

It is faith that has allowed me to maintain hope through those days in late October when I learned I had Covid-19; and soon learned Kelsey would need to deliver Ambrose while also positive with the virus.  It is also faith that has allowed me to see the good in humanity as millions of Americans wake up each day, ready to help and ready to serve each other by simply giving what they can – in their work, in their donations (whether they be of treasure, time, talent, or blood), and in prayers.  I look ahead with great optimism, even following a year with such setbacks.

We should always remember what was for old times’ sake -- but we can allow ourselves to look with favor at the future as our children have also learned the tough lessons of 2020.  Among those lessons: we mustn’t take things for granted, friendships are lasting, and giving of personal comforts for others is what carried us through.  Our youth have learned of self-sacrifice and to prioritize time with family and I am confident that will lead them to, one day, be stronger spouses and parents.  We’ll have an inspired workforce who watched others give so selflessly.  Our faith communities will grow as we’ve learned to give thanks for the gift of each new day.

So, please keep the faith and thank God too for this new year with its new beginnings.  

As we leave 2020 behind us, I humbly ask that you join me at the stroke of midnight to raise your glass and remember each other and this year – with new resolutions and recalled hope fresh in our hearts – as we sing together, though far apart:

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should old acquaintance be forgot

And auld lang syne?


For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne,

We’ll tae a cup of kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.