Auld Lang Syne is world famous for two main reasons:
- It’s famous for being sung on New Year’s Eve in English speaking countries around the world, from the USA, to the Philippines, Zimbabwe, India and to Singapore.
- It’s famous for being one of the most popular songs whose words people don’t know!
So let’s solve several mysteries: Why do we sing Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve, what on earth *are* the lyrics and equally as important – what do they mean?
What words are we actually singing?
Lyrics in Scottish Dialect (first verse & chorus):
(restored but not created by Robert Burns, 1788)
Should old acquaintances be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld Lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!
Lyrics Translation in more understandable English:
Should old acquaintances be forgotten
and never remembered?
Should old acquaintance be forgotten
From days gone by (literally: “for old long ago”)?
From days gone by, my dear
From days gone by,
We will take a cup of kindness yet
From days gone by!
Why do we sing Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve?
Auld Lang Syne is a Scottish song about remembering old friends and all the good times they brought. You can see why this theme would have been appropriate to sing on New Years Eve, where we often remember all the good times we’ve had over the past year.
Before 1929, Auld Lang Syne was mostly famous within Scotland and the Scottish community.
A Canadian musician by the name of Guy Lombordo had heard the song sung amidst the Canadian Scottish community in London, Ontario.
He liked it so much that he and his band played Auld Lang Syne as one of their regular songs.
It is said that in 1929, Lombordo and his band were playing for a New Year’s Eve party in New York City, and at the stroke of midnight they played Auld Lang Syne. The band’s dispersal of the song soon spread to the radio and TV as their New Year’s Eve piece and this was the start of a new worldwide New Year tradition.