Guy Lombardo is the reason we sing this old Scottish folk song to celebrate the New Year, even though most people don’t know who Guy Lombardo is or what the freak this song even means. Well, if you hear it play over the store speakers while shopping in Japan it means closing time, so stop trying to stuff your American shape into Asian sizes and evacuate the dressing room.
In the US the tradition of singing Auld Lang Syne for New Year’s got started by accident. Long before Dick Clark commandeered New Year’s Eve, Guy Lombardo and The Royal Canadians became famous for their big band remote radio broadcasts. During the first nationwide New Year’s Eve broadcast from New York City in 1929, Guy and his band of brothers played Auld Lang Syne right after midnight merely as transition music.
Yep, an American institution was inadvertently created by a Canadian band of Italian immigrants playing a Scottish tune.
FYI, the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life also became a holiday tradition by accident. It wasn’t even initially meant to be a Christmas flick. It received mixed reviews and even some harsh criticism for its content of drunkenness, suicide and economic class stereotyping. It tanked at the box office upon release in January 1947 and was basically forgotten, until a clerical error caused the copyright to lapse making the movie public domain three decades later.
Every television station jumped on the freebee film and began broadcasting it as a cheap holiday filler (intoxication, suicide and class slamming were much more acceptable themes in the 80s and 90s). We couldn’t help but become attached to George and his poignant plight because it was playing on every station over and over every Christmas.
But it’s good we’re accidentally exposed to a story that portrays life meaning to give us focus right before we accidentally sing Auld Lang Syne and make our New Year’s resolutions.
I’m a fan of happy accidents that spawn epic traditions because there is one that has greatly affected my life, and my New Year’s Eves. As a 13-year-old benchwarmer on the junior high volleyball team, I accidentally bumped into the shy girl sitting next to me and started talking to her. A friendship that’s lasted 30+ years began.
My bestie’s birthday happens to be December 31st and some of my favorite holiday memories are celebrating New Year’s Eve/her birthday together. (I try to forget the year she got a boyfriend right before the holidays and opted to spend our double-decker party night with him, so I spent the night pathetically stalking them around town on their date.)
We spent (almost) every New Year’s Eve together as teens and as many as we could through adulthood, including this year which was a blast (we saw the new retro musical La La Land which is fabulous). Though Guy Lombardo chose an obscure song about old friends by happenstance to become the famed New Year’s Eve anthem, it seems fitting. I’m glad I accidentally met my best buddy all those years ago and I cherish her tradition of tolerating me.