When did this all begin??
Some historians say our New Year's revelry started with the ancient Roman observance "Saturnalia," carried out in honor of the winter solstice.
Whatever this crazed night's roots, they surely have long branches that now cover the globe.
The haunting melody of "Auld Lang Syne" rings out tonight, a custom dating to the 18th century British Isles where guests ended a party by standing in a circle and belting out the tune. The custom is traced to Scotland because "Syne's" lyrics were written in 1788 by none other than their most celebrated folk poet and party animal, Mister Robbie Burns.
In Scottish dialect, the song is a heart-felt appeal to just forget the past and look to the new year with hope.
But considering how especially rough 2009 has been for so many, I think 19th century poet Thomas Hood's soulful prose is a much better fit:
"And ye, who have met with Adversity's blast,
And been bow'd to the earth by its fury;
To whom the Twelve Months, that have recently pass'd
Were as harsh as a prejudiced jury -
Still, fill to the Future! and join in our chime,
The regrets of remembrance to cozen,
And having obtained a New Trial of Time,
Shout in hopes of a kindlier dozen."
"Cozen," eh? Anybody below Word Merchant rank know exactly what Hood was talking about? I had to look it up--means "to cheat, deceive, or trick."
As in, for instance, the kind of things that recently ran even more amok on Wall Street?? God almighty, Hood was positively psychic.
Let's all shout, rattle, pound, and whistle, then; the ancients said the noise scares away evil spirits. May 2010 indeed comprise a "kindlier dozen."
Gauisus Novus Annus, barbarus!