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Our new year traditions come from all over the world

Did you know that while saying Happy New Year’s might sound correct to a fluent speaker of Pittsburghese, it is not quite right? When wishing the traditional holiday greeting, the proper phrase is Happy New Year. Read on to learn more about the details of New Year traditions we may have forgotten!

Did you know Auld Lang Syne, the song many Americans sing to bring in the new year, is a traditional Scottish folk song? The title of the song roughly translates to “days gone by, for old sake, or old long since,” which is more or less equivalent to saying “once upon a time.” Regardless of the song’s true meaning, Auld Lang Syne has been embedded in holiday festivities since 1788, when the poet Robert Burns published it.

Even though Burns may have popularized it, phrases in the song appeared in earlier works by poets Allen Ramsay and James Watson dating back to 1711. Curators of scottish folk music, Watson and Burns’ both published versions beginning, “Should old acquaintance be forgot.” However, Watson’s version continued “and never thought upon. The flames of love extinguished and fully past and gone.” Burns adapted the verse to conclude, “and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne.”

Did you know Auld Lang Syne describes two old friends having a drink and recalling adventures they had long ago? There is in fact no specific reference to the new year throughout the poem’s ten stanzas. But reminiscing with close friends while looking forward to what lies ahead is a common component of many new year traditions. The frequent boozy references also fit the theme.

Did you know making new year resolutions has been a custom for more than 4,000 years? We can probably assume breaking those resolutions has been around equally as long! Test this theory by going to the gym on Jan. 1 and observing the crowds giving their best effort on the treadmill. Go back on March 1 and see if the same motivated individuals are still attending. Chances are, treadmills will be available.

No judgment implied, but it’s awesome to imagine that from ancient Babylonian times to 2022, people of all races, creeds and nationalities shared the common trait of making and breaking new year resolutions.

From resolutions of losing weight or exercising more to quitting smoking, people around the world will bring in the new year with the best of intentions. Good luck to everyone, and “take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne!”


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