Holy matrimony

December may not mark the peak of wedding season, but many couples tie the knot at the culmination of the holiday season. According to The Knot, a leading wedding industry resource and information site, New Year’s Eve weddings are popular. A poll from The Knot found that 7,230 weddings were scheduled for Dec. 31, 2017. Flowing champagne, extra vacation days during the holidays and long weekends, as well as the merry atmosphere of the holiday season can make New Year’s Eve a great time to get hitched.

New Year’s resolutions

New Year’s resolutions may not have much staying power, but the tradition of making them is an enduring one that dates back thousands of years. According to History.com, ancient Babylonians are credited with being the first people to make New Year’s resolutions. During Akitu, a 12-day religious festival, the Babylonians would make promises to their gods, and these promises typically focused on being a better person in the coming year. Celebrants of the festival, which was held when crops were planted, a time that marked the beginning of a new year to individuals in certain ancient societies, would promise the gods that they would repay their debts and return any items they had borrowed in the previous year. While these promises might have been the forerunners to modern New Year’s resolutions, there is one distinct difference that separates ancient Babylonians from people in modern times. Babylonians believed keeping their word to the gods would curry favor for them in the coming year, while failure to keep their promises would do the opposite. People who make resolutions today typically do so to better themselves and do not fear reprisal from their creator if they fail to live up to their pledges. That’s likely a good thing, as various reports suggest that as much as 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by the second week of February.

Auld Lang Syne

“Auld Lang Syne” is a Scottish poem that was written by Robert Burns in 1788. Burns claimed when he wrote the words down and put them to music, and later sent them the poem to the Scots Musical Museum, that “Auld Lang Syne” was an ancient song, but he had been the first to record it on paper. According to Scotland.org, the phrase “auld lang syne” translates roughly to “for old times’ sake.” Others have translated it to mean “time goes by” or even as “once upon a time.” The song is about preserving old friendships and reminiscing about events that occurred during the year. Many people sing it to evoke fellowship and nostalgia, though most cannot fully get past the first verse of the song. Its lyrics are a challenge to the unfamiliar — even among those who grew up in the United Kingdom. According to a 2018 poll by the British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, just 3 percent of people who live in England know the words to “Auld Lang Syne.” Among Scots, only 7 percent know all the lyrics. Even still, people may be content to hum along when “Auld Lang Syne” is traditionally sung on New Year’s Eve.

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