♫ Auld Lang Syne ♫

This song is a classic New Year’s Eve tune, but I was curious how it became so.  From the American Songwriter website, I found my answer …

So far as folk standards go, you’d be hard-pressed to find a song with the same stature and staying power as the Scottish traditional, “Auld Lang Syne.”

Known in America as the definitive song for New Year’s Eve, it’s actually popular all around the world in a variety of contexts—from Dutch soccer songs to Japanese graduation songs to an older version of the Korean national anthem. Yet, most folks—even in the English-speaking world—probably feel pretty similar to Billy Crystal’s character in When Harry Met Sally, who said: “What does this song mean? My whole life, I don’t know what this song means.”

To find the answer to that question, we’ll go back to the first major documentation of the song: Robert Burns’ 1793 letter to his friend George Thomson. Seeking to document this slice of Scottish culture, he wrote down the lyrics of the tune and described it as an “old song of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript, until I took it down from an old man’s singing.”

Combining English words with words from the Scots language—something Burns was particularly fond of—the tune served as a personification of Scottish heritage in an era marked by the encroachment of English culture. Thus, we sing the words “auld lang syne” in place of their literal English translation, “old long since,” which would more accurately translate to “for the sake of old times.”

To that end, the song is, in short, an ode to the old times and a hopeful look to more good times ahead. Whether sung to mark the end of an era or merely sung at the end of a good night of drinking, its message is as simple as it is powerful: remember the good times, and here’s hoping for more.

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

So, that essentially answers Billy Crystal’s question… but how did it become known as the New Year’s Eve song? To answer that, we’ll take a little trip to 1929 to listen to Guy Lombardo’s New Year’s Eve broadcast, in which he and his band, the Royal Canadians, performed a rendition of the tune as the clock struck midnight. Liking the sentiment, Lombardo decided to make it a tradition—so, countless households, year after year, listened to “Auld Lang Syne” as they said goodbye to the past year and hello to the new one. Lombardo continued the tradition until he died in 1977.

And picking up the mantle, Dick Clark opted to use it as his midnight song when he started broadcasting his New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in the early ’70s—when Ryan Seacrest took over that broadcast in the early 2000s, he, of course, continued the tradition.

So, to this day, thanks to the efforts of Robert Burns, Guy Lombardo, Dick Clark, Ryan Seacrest, and countless generations of Scots, music lovers, and party-goers, the song remains a treasured tradition for millions around the world. And when you raise your glass this year to the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, now you can know just how many folks through the annals of history stand with you—for auld lang syne!

And now, from Filosofa, Jolly, and Joyful … Happy New Year!

Auld Lang Syne

Guy Lombardo

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear, For auld lang syne
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne

We twa hae run aboot the braes
And pou’d the gowans fine
We’ve wander’d mony a weary foot
Sin’ auld lang syne

We two hae paidled i’ the burn
Frae mornin’ sun till dine
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin’ auld lang syne

And here’s a hand, my trusty friend
And gie’s a hand o’ thine
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And days of auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne

24 thoughts on “♫ Auld Lang Syne ♫

  1. The origins of the song were so interesting to read. I wasn’t aware of them at all, yet have sung that song many times and it is so terribly iconic. A way to say goodbye to the past year and friends or family you met or lost.
    Thanks so much for sharing this.

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    • I always love it when somebody tells me they learned something new from one of my posts! I don’t know of anybody who ever knew all the lyrics to this song! It was one of those that you just sang along with the words that were in your head or heart at the time. Happy New Year!

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  2. I grew up not only listening to Guy Lombardo on the vinyl records but also applauding whilst watching my parents dance to them! I admit to having a few Lombardo albums myself, though not the old vinyl ones. Over several generations of all the many notable Lombardo songs this one is probably the most well known and most often heard. It is a family tradition to play it on New Year’s Eve…but since 1989, only after watching “When Harry Met Sally” then on VHS and now on DVD! WHAK!! Thank-you!

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    • Your parents must have been very much in love with each other! All I remember about New Year’s Eve from my childhood was both of my parents getting drunk and fighting. I do remember hearing this song every year, though … perhaps in order to drown out the sound of breaking dishes? 😒

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  3. Pingback: ♫ Auld Lang Syne ♫ | Filosofa’s Word | Ramblings of an Occupy Liberal

  4. Happy New Year, Jill! Given that the words were written by Burns I think any attempt to make a tradition out of this song anywhere other than Scotland is jumping on the bandwagon a bit. Interesting to me that your source picked up the tune as being used by Dutch footy fans, as it was one of the earliest songs I learned when I first went to matches. But they probably didn’t want to mention that, as our words weren’t safe to repeat here 😂

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