Auld Lang Syne

The New Year is upon us, and with it celebrations to top off a season filled with gatherings and music. The holiday season has months worths of songs, but on New Years we always turn to the song written by the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Auld Lang Syne is a requirement on that night to hear played loud and brightly. We know the melody of the Old Scottish Air, but the words seem harder to sing along to than most with its specific dialectic and archaic words and spellings, and so it is nice to take a moment during the month of New Years to remember Robert Burns the man who wrote the poem that became the entire world’s celebratory song to usher in the new year.

Auld Lange is a song based on a poem written centuries ago, and its words endure even when the meaning sometimes takes a moment of translating. It is about kindness and friendship and reflecting upon what has happened in the past year while looking towards the next. Robert Burns was a writer and a poet born in the mid eighteen century in a small town in Scotland. Burns considered leaving his native farming area to travel and to raise the money for his trip to he chose his best poems and had them published together as the Kilmarnock Edition. This book of his poems was so immediately successful that he decided to stay in Scotland and live in the city of Edinburgh. He earned fame and success as a poet and his words endure. We celebrate his works and his life each time we sing Auld Lang Syne.

In Scotland the winters are cold and dark comes early. There are always warm and cheerful pubs and restaurants with fireplaces and comfortable chairs to spend time in with family and friends. Burns Night in the United Kingdom is celebrated in January on or near his birth of January 25th. In many part of the United Kingdom special dinner celebration are organized in homes or by restaurants with themed menus. The menu usually varies little in its loyalty to traditions. The dinner is started with a rich meat broth sometimes made of lamb, and the evening is highlighted by haggis, which is a savory meat dish specialty of Scotland or salmon and finished with a hot rhubarb and oatmeal crumble with a sweetened cream and the tables are lit by only candlelight. Often there is a man hired for the evening dressed as Robert Burns who offers his Scottish blessing and his poetry is read throughout the evening as each course is paired with samplings of Scottish whiskey. It is a magical night of unexpected learning and fun and puts perspective on that song that we all want to hear when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.

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Sprinkle Joy

This month is a month of celebrations. The days are often colder and darker and we seek light and warmth. From giant menorahs to dancing snowflakes and candy canes hung outside of otherwise sleek office buildings, it is a time to glow brightest and shine .The holiday season is rarely understated. In days when the laughter of gatherings are often kept indoors with more intimate invitations, we want to share our joy with the outside. In houses in the country and windows in the city, there is beauty in decorating for others, of giving gifts to acknowledge importance in our lives, and always choosing to sprinkle joy.

“Sprinkle Joy”. That sign remains one of the most beautiful decorations I have ever seen. It hung on an otherwise unadorned bank building, in stark contrast with live actors dressed up as dancing fairies in windows and gold and pine green branches adorned outside of neighboring stores. The plain grey and white with the beautiful words by Ralph Waldo Emerson stood bright amongst the rest. It serves as a reminder to always try and bring joy to each day and to every person we encounter.

Many have the ability to give gifts, but it is important to recognize the ability to give joy. As Thanksgiving is when we tend to focus on what we have, this month is when our attention is focused on how we can give to others. There are certain people that when they walk into a room it is as if they are wearing a glowing diadem of warmth and happiness. Every moment is chance and a choice to complain or commend. When we see the good in others, it always improves our own outlook towards each day and memory of the moment.

Compliments and kind gestures never diminish from our own attributes, but rather heighten an awareness for what we appreciate in others and look for in ourselves. We may remember an unkind moment in the past, but we always seek kindness in our present. As beauty can attract and interest keeps, it is the joy around us that both attracts and keeps us wanting to be in its presence.

Recently, I was crossing a darkened city street in the height of rush hour and there was construction in the middle of the road. There in the midst of what could have been a wholly unpleasant scene was a man hard at work wearing his issued hardhat which he had completely adorned with colored lights. It was a beautiful sight to see the purposeful intention of bringing joy to the unexpected.

We often travel the most this time of year, and we may encounter people along the way that we might not see again, the ticket agent, the restaurant worker, the stranger sitting next to us, it is important to always treat each person as if we will always see them again. To remember to always be kind and speak well to those around us. To be the one who purposeful brings light to the unexpected. We gain when we give, and it is always best to sprinkle joy.

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