For Auld Lang Syne

Wine recommendation for this post:
Cheers on your New Years! Best not to overthink it on New Years Eve! Pop culture generally, and generically, refers to such wines served at midnight on New Year’s Eve as Champagne. More often then not, the wine in question is not genuine Champagne, but rather some other form of sparkling white wine: Asti, Prosecco, Espumante, etc. If you’re a traditionalist, by all means, pick your Champagne of choice. However, if you’re willing to dabble in other bubbly realms, there are LOTS of options. My all time favorite celebratory bubbly is La Marca Prosecco, so if you need a fail safe and like your sparkling wine Italian, this is a good and widely distributed option. Otherwise, I’ve been reading a lot of 2021 hype about Cava. A Spanish sparkling wine made in the same style as Champagne, Cava tends to be offered at a more approachable price point for many aspiring wine lovers. Notes of toasted almond marry with citrus, apple, and a bright acidity for a wine that offers complexity while also staying light and refreshing. At $9 Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava is a good bottle to start with if you’re looking for a different way to toast the new year!

There are a lot of Christmas carols, but only one New Year’s anthem!

There is, perhaps, no song as singularly synonymous with a moment in the year as “Auld Lang Syne.” It’s the “Happy Birthday” of the New Year, and thus rings out merrily as clocks turn from 11:59 to midnight, and then fades away for the remaining 364 days, 23 hours, and 59 minutes of the year.

I love “Auld Lang Syne,” even if I don’t always remember all the words when I try to sing along on New Year’s Eve!

The first version of the song I ever remember paying attention to is the one that appears in the 2008 movie “Sex and the City.” “Sex and the City” was a show that I was not allowed to watch as a kid, but in 2008, then in college and no longer subject to my parents’ censoring, I’d made my way through most of the reruns and went to see the movie at the budget theater downtown with friends. At twenty years old and on our own for the first time, my college friends and I probably fancied ourselves to be living large in the city like the women on screen…though admittedly our city was much smaller, our wardrobes much plainer, and our love lives non-existent!

In the movie, Carrie rushes to Miranda’s apartment through the snow on New Year’s Eve so that she doesn’t have to be alone at midnight. She dashes in and out of subway stations, and arrives just at the knick of time, and all the while, Mairi Campbell’s acoustic version of Auld Lang Syne floats in the background.

For years after I saw the film, I had that version of the song on my phone, and I would use it as a ringtone in the week after Christmas. At midnight, when friends and family would call or text with wishes for the New Year, they’d arrive to a chorus of “Auld Lang Syne.” It wasn’t quite a rush through the subway station at midnight, but it was, in its own way, all of us showing up for each other again as we all turned our eyes to new days ahead.

New days ahead…

In that respect, never have we needed a rousing chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” more than we do this year! We sing an old song, full of remembrance of old times, to usher in new hope. So many lyrics of the song speak into the emptiness and longing we experienced in 2020.

“We’ve wandered manys, the weary foot…”

“The seas between us broad have roared…”

In one set of lines, the singer suggests to an acquaintance they much each buy their own pint. In some way, perhaps, this is suggestive of this strange year, harkening to the distance and non-togetherness of the COVID-times. You buy your own beer. Sit at your own table (outside!). Keep your own company. Dream of days gone by. For old times sake. Auld lang syne.

In 1916, with World War I raging, British soldiers were said to have replaced the wistful, longing lyrics of “Auld Lang Syne” with a repetitive droning, set to the same tune, that they would sing in the trenches. “We’re here because we’re here because we’re here because we’re here…” The sentiment was reflective of what had become a repetitive Hell of violence, death, and horror, in a conflict that had escalated far beyond what anyone might have imagined.

I’m am grateful that, for me, the dumpster fire that was 2020 did not include the horrors and violence of war. Though beyond that, in its own way, 2020 also escalated far beyond what anyone might have imagined. And just beneath the surface of the stay at home orders, and distance learning, and worrying over how many rolls of toilet paper were in the house, and the millionth Zoom meeting, and the billionth political ad, the steady hum of time marched on. Life moved forward…however altered.

“We’re here because we’re here because we’re here because we’re here…”

In his excellent micro-history of “Auld Lang Syne,” John Green writes of attending a talk given by a key-note speaker who was dying of cancer. As part of her presentation, she spoke broadly of existence and asked the audience to sing with her the British soldiers’ version of the tune.

“We’re here because we’re here because we’re here because we’re here…”

In that moment, Green recalls the hope he recognized in the lyrics.

“It became a statement that we are here–meaning that we are together, and not alone. And it’s also a statement that we are, that we exist, and it’s a statement that we are here, that a series of astonishing unlikelihoods has made us possible and here possible. We might never know why we are here, but we can still proclaim in hope that we are here. I don’t think such hope is foolish or idealistic or misguided. I believe that hope is, for lack of a better word, true.

We live in hope–that life will get better, and more importantly that it will go on…

It’s there in that final verse.

“And there’s a hand my trusty friend!/And give a hand of thine./And we’ll take a deep draught of good will./For auld lang syne.”

At the end of a year in which we separated, stayed apart, washed our hands far more often than we likely reached them out, there is still hope.

In a not so distant or distanced future, you’ll give me your hand. Join me at my table. Share a drink with me. Remember with me the days gone by.

Dark days they’ve been.

Better days they will be.

Happy New Year!

Published by Kate

A former Wisconsinite, Kate now resides in southeast Minnesota with her husband where she teaches high school English and theater. She has a master's degree in learning design and technology and has continued graduate-level work in equity, reading and writing instruction, and student/staff self-care and mental wellness. A recipient of the RISE America grant for high school theater, Kate works to expand arts opportunities for her own students and is an advocate for expanded arts programming across the state and country. An avid distance runner, pianist, and would-be wine aficionado, Kate describes her blog "Bin 33" as, "An easy, and occasionally snarky, conversation with a good friend over a glass of wine!"

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