"For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne."
"Auld Lang Syne," popularized by poet Robert Burns in 1788, has been called the song that everyone sings but no one understands. The title means roughly "old times long past." "Auld" is a variant of "old" and was considered Scottish after the late 14th century. "Lang syne" means "times long past," especially those remembered fondly. The phrase dates back to around 1500 in Scotland. The song describes looking back on bygone days and toasting old friendships.
Robert Burns collected traditional Scottish music and songs and mentioned "Auld Lang Syne" in a letter dated 1788. He later published the song in a collection of Scottish music. Only the first three stanzas were traditional; Burns composed the last two stanzas himself.
New Year's was a major midwinter festival in Scotland, and traditional songs were part of the entertainment. This song, with its emphasis on old times and old friends, likely resonated with audiences. It became a Scottish tradition to sing "Auld Lang Syne" at New Year's, and that custom spread to the rest of the United Kingdom. Immigrants brought that tradition with them to the rest of the world.
Singing the song at midnight became tradition when Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadian Band played the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City on New Year's Eve in 1929. Lombardo had learned the song from Scottish immigrants in Ontario, and the band's version was broadcast on the radio. Every year after, until 1976, Guy Lombardo and his band played "Auld Lang Syne" at midnight on New Year's Eve.
The version we hear today is different from the original song, but the sentiments are the same as we remember the past and turn to the new year.