Exploring Music's Complexities

History of Auld Lang Syne

It’s almost that time again.   You may not know all the words but you probably will either listen to or participate in singing it.  It’s called Auld Lang Syne.   The song is one of first things you think of when someone mentions the New Year. Why is the song so closely attached to the New Year?  Let’s take a look at its history.

What Does it Mean?

After a bit of research, you will discover there are a number of options for what Auld Lang Syne means.  None of them totally wrong.  Examples include” old times sake,” “times gone by,” “for old times’ sake.”  Even more confusing is how the tune came to be related to the New Year or how it so well known in many countries.  It is sung for funerals, graduations and farewells, and has become a New Year’s tradition in English speaking worlds.

Auld Lang Syne did not start out as a song.  It was a poem first published by Robert Burns in the 1796 edition of the book, Scots Musical Museum after he heard it sung by an old man from the Ayshire area of Scotland (1).  This article defines the lyrics as “The song asks whether old friends and times will be forgotten and promises to remember people of the past with fondness.”

Guy Lombardo is credited with turning the song into a New Year’s tradition.  Story has it that he first heard it sung in London, Ontario by Scottish immigrants.  Later it became one of the standards of his Royal Canadian Band. 

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To sing along the lyrics are:

“Auld Lang Syne”

Should auld acquaintance 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 drink a cup of kindness yet
For days of 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 drink a cup of kindness yet
For auld lang syne (2).

  1. The History of Auld Lang Syne.  https://www.historyanswers.co.uk/inventions/top-five-christmas-facts/.  Retrieved Dec. 20, 2018.
  2. https://www.lyricsmode.com.

 

 

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