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The Story of Auld Lang Syne

How an old Scottish folk song became a global New Year’s tradition.

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There are a lot of Christmas carols, but there’s only one New Year’s song: “Auld Lang Syne.” This song was written hundreds of years ago and is often called the song that nobody knows – so how is it a New Year’s tradition today?

The Story Of “Auld Lang Syne”

Auld Lang Syne translates into “old long since,” but it basically means “since long ago” or “for old time’s sake.” The song was first written down by Robert Burns, the 18th-century Scottish poet. He sent the song to music publisher James Johnson for inclusion in the Scots Musical Museum compilation. He described it as “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.”

“Auld Lang Syne” was a huge success in Scotland, where it became part of the country’s New Year’s Eve celebration, Hogmanay. The song’s popularity spread through Britain and, eventually, to America. Translations vary, but let us finish by publishing the complete Burns poem/song in English (mostly), in the hope that it won’t offend any Scot who may be reading:

“Auld Lang Syne”

By Robert Burns

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

and never brought to mind?

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

and auld 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 me a hand o’ thine!

And we’ll take a right good-will draught,

for auld lang syne.

Socio-political Correspondent at and Managing Editor of Eclectic in interests and political philosophies, Laura came to journalism after years of working as an educator. Her background as a historian has informed her research and writing styles, as well as her approach to current affairs. Born and raised in Australia, Laura currently resides in Great Britain.

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