Our volunteer archivist, Cluny Wells, marks the end of the 18th century festive season with an Auld Lang Syne.   

Chiswick House resident, Lord Burlington, lived long enough to see the adoption, in England, of the Gregorian calendar in 1752. This meant that the official start of the year became the 1 January, and not the 25 March as it had been since the 12th century. This meant that 1751 was the shortest year ever, lasting from 25 March to the 31 December. In Scotland the change to the Gregorian calendar had already happened over a century earlier in 1600.

Burlington’s heirs, the Devonshires, might have sung Auld Lang Syne at the stroke of midnight on 31 December on any year from 1799, when the Scottish poet Robert Burns published the song. Burns had previously collected poems and his famous Auld Lang Syne is based on older poems and set to a traditional tune – a pentatonic folk melody familiar to us still today.

With the Georgian Christmas spanning 6 December until 6 January, 18th century New Year’s Eve celebrations would likely have been rolled into the general festive season culminating with Twelfth Night parties.