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Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Have you heard this tune before, called “Auld Lang Syne”? In the old films you can see the characters singing together on New Years Eve at the sound of the midnight chime. Everyone knows the words.

For more modernity, you can hear Harry in When Harry Met Sally asking the question, “What does this song mean? My whole life, I don’t know what this song means. I mean, ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot’? Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot?” Sally understands. “Anyway, it’s about old friends,” she says with tears in her eyes.

“Auld Lang Syne” does have its traditional place at the conclusion of New Years Eve gatherings. With the cheer and revelry of embracing the New Year, we find a haunting tune drawing the listener to consider old friends and old relationships. As we age, this is the stuff that really matters. “No man is a failure who has friends,” Clarence writes George in It’s a Wonderful Life.

The song is used powerfully in the 1932 film, The Divorcee, a movie about regret and relationships. The past cannot be undone, but they can move forward with eyes opened wide. Old relationships do not have the shimmer and shine of new relationships, or the naiveté. Your oldest friends or family members have likely seen you at your best and your worst, yet still they choose to be in your life. There is power to that stripped down openness. The strongest relationships keep in mind the storms and the dark times and still find some life to continue going. George Bailey was no saint, but he was loved.

This is the strength of old acquaintances. There is always more to learn about a person. Human beings are ever changing. The past and present coexist in a person, as well as the potential for the future. The mark of suffering never fully disappears. The griever learns to live with his grief. The friend of these is the one who is aware of the suffering, the grief, and yet can still smile, still laugh, being present with this person wherever he or she is at, and hope for a better tomorrow.

Another tradition of New Years Eve is the symbol of Baby New Year and Father Time. The baby quickly ages to become Father Time by the end of the year and passes on the reins to the new Baby.

We can carry this sense of continuity in our reflection of the New Year. There is a passing from one to the next. We look back at the time in 2016, and hope for better things next year, better decisions. I hope we can also look back with gratitude at a handful of things, but suffering varies by year. Whatever your state, hold on to those old friends, seek them out if need be, and prepare yourself to step forward into a fresh start, to make of it whatever you will.

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