Celebrating the New Year on January first is a relatively new concept. In ancient times, the New Year was celebrated at the vernal equinox (March 21st). As such it was considered a time of rebirth and renewal when the crops had started once again to grow and life was creeping back into the earth.
It wasn’t until the introduction of the Julian calendar in 46 BC that January 1st began to be seen as the “official” marking of the New Year. But it is a tradition that has caught on in Western civilization. In fact, New Year’s Eve has come to be seen as the ultimate party. A time when everybody who is anybody is out celebrating the coming of a New Year, and music is, of course, an important part of any celebration.
But what guitar pieces do you play at a New Year celebration? There are very few “traditional” New Year songs, with the exception of course of Auld Lang Syne, and even fewer songs that are available to be played on acoustic guitar. But don’t despair, we’ve put together a list of our five favorite New Year songs for acoustic guitar; five pieces that are relatively easy-to-play and that you can add to your repertoire and play to impress and inspire on New Year’s Eve.
#1 - Here We Come A Wassailing by Kate Rusby
“Here we come a Wassailing” is an old English song to wish good health and to bestow blessing on the listener for the New Year. The word wassail comes from the old English which means just that “good health” and according to tradition. In order to “warm up” the hearts of the rich, the beggars and orphans in old England would dance through the streets offering to sing “good cheer” to the rich and to tell them good fortunes if the person would give them a drink from their “wassail bowl” or if they would give them a penny or a pork pie. The wassail bowl was a combination of hot ale and spices and Meade, not a wonder that this song was considered a “heart warming” song. This particular version, sung and played by Kate Rusby, is by far the most interesting rendition of the song and lends the traditional Yuletide carol a new life. Kate Rusby is an English Folk singer and songwriter from Penistone, South Yorkshire. She is sometimes referred to as The Barnsley Nightingale. This is my favorite of the New Years songs for guitar.
What better time of the year to Imagine a world without hatred and war than on New Year’s Eve? “Imagine” by John Lennon has long been considered to be the penultimate song of hope and so it only seems appropriate that it should be played on New Year’s, even though it is not by definition a New Year song. “Imagine” was written by English singer and songwriter John Lennon and released on his album by the same name in 1971. Rolling Stone recently ranked Imagine as the #3 song of all time for its ability to inspire.
American singer and songwriter Jim Croche (January 10, 1943 – September 20, 1973) released six studio albums and eleven singles between 1966 and 1973. “Time in a Bottle” was released in 1973 on the album “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” and became an overnight success. The wistfulness of the song touches the heart at any time of the year, but at New Year’s especially when we think of those we love and how much we’d like to spend more time with them. When dedicated to a special someone, this song can make an impression that will last a lifetime.
American singer and song-writer Jason Mraz is quoted as saying that the song “Life is Wonderful” is his favorite of all the songs he has ever written, and with good reason! The song is simple and easy to play, but the words are astoundingly profound. It makes you think; it emphasizes the fact that life is never perfect because without the bad things that we encounter, there would be no way to enjoy the good that life brings us, a very timely message for every New Year. Life is Wonderful is found on Mraz’s album Mr. A-Z is the second studio album by American released on July 26, 2005
Time is a fleeting thing, and this is never as clear as it is on New Year’s Eve when we usher in another new year, and wonder how the old one passed so quickly. There is one song that hammers this home in a way no other song can. "Cat's in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin is a 1974 folk rock song from the album Verities & Balderdash. This song may have been Harry Chapin’s only #1 song ever, but it has touched the lives of millions with its simple tune and heart piercing lyrics about one man’s regret for not having spent more time with his son. Some would say that this song is too sad to play on New Year’s which, traditionally, is a time for hope; a time to celebrate change, but in a way it is perfect, because it reminds us of what is really important in life and why we should always keep our priorities straight.
While these five songs are those that are recommended for the acoustic guitar player, they are by no means the only songs that can be played on New Year’s. As you can see, a song doesn’t necessarily have to have the words “new year” in it to be considered a New Year song, so be creative; there are any number of guitar New Year songs available for the acoustic guitar player. If you use your imagination and a little creativity, the possibilities are nearly limitless.