The Meaning of Auld Lang Syne

December 31, 2013 at 2:00 am 5 comments

By Chad Upton | Editor

Happy New Year’s Eve!

Even if you’ve never heard of Auld Lang Syne, you’d likely recognize the melody — it’s commonly played and sung at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, not to mention its presence in many Films and TV shows when reminiscing about old times or celebrating new ones.

Play this youtube clip to refresh your memory:

Although the melody is instantly recognizable, it was actually a poem (with no melody) before it was ever a song. The poem was written by Robert Burns in 1788. It was originally written in Scots, a variety of German localized in Lowland Scotland and Ulster, Ireland.

The first line, “Should Old Acquaintance be forgot” is actually a rhetorical question that is accepted as a reflection upon old friendships. Auld Lang Syne itself means “old long since” and For Auld Lang Syne is roughly “for the sake of old times” when translated to English.

Although the poem was written by Robert Burns, the phrase “Auld Lang Syne” can be found in poems that predate Burns. Burns provided the Scots Musical Museum with a copy of the song and this note, “The following song, 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.”

The tradition of singing Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s Eve was started by the Scots and became tradition elsewhere in the British Isles before spreading around the world. Today, a hand written copy of Auld Lang Syne is part of the permanent collection in The Lilly Library at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

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Sources: wikipedia (Auld Lang Syne)

Entry filed under: History and Origins, Holidays and Traditions. Tags: , , , , , , .

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