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Home » Discovering difference » Burning the ‘old man’ in Bandra + a Canadian connect to ‘Auld Lang Syne’ – Happy New Year!

Burning the ‘old man’ in Bandra + a Canadian connect to ‘Auld Lang Syne’ – Happy New Year!

Global views


I wish you all the best for the coming year sharing two traditions:

  • From Bombay, the burning of the ‘old man’
  • And from Scotland via Canada to the US, the popular Auld Lang Syne

Burning the old man

All around Bandra you can see straw stuffed old folks hanging around at street corners. You might just be accosted by youngsters demanding money for the old man. To do what? Well burn him, of course! And the money? Why to have some fun, what else?!

“Aunty! Uncle! Gimoneyferolman!!”

Give Money for Old Man! (Photo: Carissa Hickling)

Give Money for Old Man! (Photo: Carissa Hickling)

I’ve only ever encountered this tradition in catholic parts of Mumbai and apparently its popularity is waning – “Look who’s burning the old man.”

My partner did some digging about the tradition and found that apparently Ecuador also has a similar way of bidding adieu to the old year. I wonder about the origin of the tradition and where else celebrates saying goodbye to the previous year by “burning the old man?”

Mumbai New Year's tradition of burning the 'Old Man' (Photo: Carissa Hickling)

Mumbai New Year’s tradition of burning the ‘Old Man’ (Photo: Carissa Hickling)

Auld Lang Syne

Here is another bit of trivia – though Auld Lang Syne may have Robbie Burns words – did you know there is a Canadian connect to its current popularity?

The story goes that it was Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians, who popularized the song after Guy heard Auld Lang Syne in his hometown of London, Ontario from Scottish immigrants. Lombardo played the song at midnight at a New Year’s eve party in New York City in 1929, and a tradition was born.  After that, Lombardo’s version of the song was played every New Year’s eve from the 1930s until 1976 at the Waldorf Astoria, then broadcast on radio and television.

From the archives…. a little Auld Lang Syne Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians style…

Wishing you all the very best for the new year – whether you ‘burn the old man’ or sing a rousing rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne!’



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  2. Glynis Jolly says:

    How interesting! ‘Burning the old man’ is more common among Catholics? Sound kind of morbid to me. And I honestly thought the tradition of singing Auld Lang Syne was older than that.

    • Burning the old man is a bit gruesome actually but the kids around here sure seem to have fun with it. 🙂

      As for Auld Lang Syne… certainly the words are much older but apparently the universality of it linked to new years is a more modern phenomenon.

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