Why do we sing Auld Lang Syne on New Year's Eve?

Singing as we say goodbye to the old year and usher in the new Auld Lang Syne is a song that has its roots in Scotland going back further than Robert Burns.

The text of the song was written in a Scottish poem by Burns in 1788, but is based on an older Scottish folk song.

After writing the poem, Burns sent a copy of the original song to the Scots Musical Museum.

“The following song, an old song from the old days that was never printed, not even in manuscript until I took it from an old man,” Burns wrote of the manuscript.

It soon became part of Scotland’s huge Hogmanay, or (New Year’s) celebrations, and quickly spread across the British Isles and beyond.

It is unclear whether the melody the lyrics are sung (or muttered) to today is that intended by Burns.

Why is Auld Lang Syne sung on New Year’s Eve?

Due to the mass migration of Scots and Irish around the world, the song spread worldwide. It became a ballad to remind us of those we have loved and lost or miss as they build new lives in the “new world”.

These feelings of reflection are particularly strong at the turn of the year, which makes Auld Lang Syne a favorite New Year’s song.

The song’s rise to tradition in North America is due in part to Guy Lombardo. Its orchestra played it every year from 1929 to 1977 on its famous New Year’s Eve radio and television program.

Adopted by Americans, Canadians and Australians, its melody has also been used for their own folk songs in India, Bangladesh, Denmark, Thailand, Japan and South Korea.

Ludwig van Beethoven even wrote an arrangement by Auld Lang Syne as part of his 12 Scottish folk songs from 1814.

What does Does Auld Lang mean Syne?

Auld Lang Syne essentially means “a long time ago” or for the sake of the old days’. The lyrics tell the story of old friends who share a drink and remember adventures they went on long ago.

It’s about keeping and remembering friendships, even when they’re from afar.

The original is written and performed in Scottish, but the more modern version sung around the world is in adapted standard English.

original Lyrics of Auld Lang Syne

The original Scottish verse reads as follows:

Should an old friend be forgotten
and never came to mind?
Should an old friend be forgotten
and auld lang syne?

Choir:

For Auld Lang Syne, my Jo,
for the long term,
We’ll take another cup of kindness
for a long term.

And surely you will be your pint steup!
and surely i will be mine!
And we take another cup of kindness
for a long term.

Choir

We both run around the bras
and pou’d the gowans fine;
But we lost a tired fit
Sin in the long run.

Choir

We both paid in the cremation
frae morning sun until dinner;
But the seas weave between us roared
Sin in the long run.

Choir

And there is a hand, my faithful Fiere!
And gie is your hand!
And we’ll take a real Gude-willie-waught
for a long term.

Choir

Standard modern lyrics by Auld Lang Syne

These texts are used all over the world and are more than enough to keep you from pantomime on New Years Eve:

Should the old friend be forgotten
and never came to mind?
Should the old friend be forgotten
and auld lang syne?

Choir:

For Auld Lang Syne, my dear,
for the long term,
We’ll take another cup of kindness
for a long term.

And be sure to buy your pint mug!
and sure I’ll buy mine!
And we take another cup of kindness
for a long term.

Choir

We two ran over the hills
and picked the daisies well;
But we wandered many tired feet
since auld long syne.

Choir

We two paddled in the brook
from the morning sun to the meal;
But the seas between us roared
since auld long syne.

Choir

And there is a hand, my faithful friend!
And give me your hand!
And we take a real goodwill draft,
for a long term.

Choir

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