December 31, 2011 4:07 PM

Auld Lang Syne - lyrics, history

The traditional New Years Song:

Auld Lang Syne (with lyrics) as sung by Dougie MacLean

Auld Lang Syne is attributed to the Scottish poet Robert Burns, who in 1788 claimed to have collected the words of an old man to preserve them. You can find the original Scots lyrics and pronunciation as well as an older, more compelling version by James Watson at Wikipedia. Here is the English translation:

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.


And there's a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o' thine !
And we'll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.


It's a song about friendship and remembrance, celebration and regret at the passage of time, so it's not surprising it ended up the signature song of New Year's. Here's the path it traveled from Scotland to the United States:

The song was first sung on Hogmanay, or the last day of the year in Scotland. It spread to other parts of the British Isles and as British emigrants moved to different areas of the globe, the song followed.

Although some newspaper articles mentioned the song in conjunction with the New Year celebration as early as 1896, the credit is given to Guy Lombardo for popularizing the use at New Year's Eve festivities in America. Guy Lombardo was a Canadian band leader who did annual broadcasts on radio and television. He used "Auld Lang Syne" in 1929 and most of the following years.

Further popularized in the movie It's a Wonderful Life:


Posted in Music, New Year's | Permalink


Guy Lombardo was scheduled to be on one radio network till midnight and then another after midnight. The two broadcasts overlapped as he was playing Auld Lang Syne. Ther were only three networks at the time so two thirds of the people listening to the radio were hearing the same song.

Posted by: Mel | January 2, 2012 5:09 PM

Wow - love the cultural unity. And it sure beats Lady Gaga. . . .

Posted by: Barbara | January 2, 2012 8:50 PM

Post a comment