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The History of “Auld Lang Syne”

What does the song Auld Lang Syne actually mean?

Auld Lang Syne, Scottish song with words attributed to the national poet of Scotland, Robert Burns. In English-speaking countries, the first verse and chorus are now closely associated with the New Year festival.

The lyrics of “Auld Lang Syne” are in the Scots language. The title, translated literally into standard English, is Old Long Since. The words can be interpreted as since long ago or for old times’ sake. The lyrics are about old friends having a drink and recalling adventures they had long ago. There is no specific reference to the new year.

“Auld Lang Syne” was first published in volume five of James Johnson’s Scots Musical Museum.

In 1799 the words and music that are now familiar appeared together, in a Scottish song compilation published by George Thomson. In the 19th century the song was reprinted many times, and eventually it became part of the Scottish Hogmanay (New Year’s celebration). Hogmanay celebrants traditionally sing the song while they stand in a circle holding hands.

The Canadian-born bandleader Guy Lombardo helped make “Auld Lang Syne” a New Year’s Eve tradition in North America. His band, the Royal Canadians, played the song at the turn of the new year in a series of popular radio (and later television) broadcasts that began on December 31, 1929, and continued for more than 30 years.

It is still sung all over the world, evoking a sense of belonging and fellowship, tinged with nostalgia.


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

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

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
And surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We two have run about the slopes,
And picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
Since auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream,
From morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
Since auld lang syne.