The traditional song for bringing in the new year in most English speaking countries is “Auld Lang Syne”. The song is well known and sung at the stroke of midnight as the new year is ushered in. The words were passed down orally and written down in 1788 by Scottish poet Robert Burns. Robert Burns is usually given credit for the poem, but some lyrics appear to have been taken from an earlier poem by James Watson. The phrase “Auld Lang Syne” is also used in similar poems by Robert Ayton (1570-1638), Allan Ramsay (1686-1757), and James Watson (1711) as well as older folk songs predating Burns.
It soon became traditional in Scotland and the British Isles for the folk song “Auld Lang Syne” to be sung to commemorate the beginning of the New Year. As the people from that area of the world emigrated to other places and to the United States, they brought the tradition with them and it became an American tradition. Although the song is widely known, must of us don’t understand the meaning. The song title “Auld Lang Syne” can be translated to long long ago or days gone by. Matthew Fitt, a Lowland Scots/Lallans poet and novelist, uses the phrase “In the days of auld lang syne” as the equivalent of “Once upon a time…” in his retelling of fairy tales in the Scots language.
The meaning of this popular Scottish New Years Eve song ” Auld Lang Syne” is about old friends who have parted and meet again. To celebrate their long friendship, they share a drink together and reminisce of memories from a long time ago. The main message is that we should not forget our old friends and should celebrate a reunion with them.
The opening verse: “Should old acquaintance be forgot / and never brought to mind? / Should old acquaintance be forgot / and days o’ lang syne?” is the one most of us know and remember. These lines ask whether one can forget the days that have gone by and the friends with whom those days have been spent. The next verses recall those days.
There is some doubt as to whether the melody used today is the same one Burns originally intended, but it is widely used both in Scotland and in the rest of the world.
Guy Lombardo, famous Canadian band leader, is often credited with popularising the use of the song at New Year’s celebrations in America, through his annual broadcasts on radio and television, beginning in 1929. The song became his trademark. In addition to his live broadcasts, Lombardo recorded the song more than once. His first recording was in 1939. Though there are earlier newspaper reports of the song being sung in American and across the ocean to celebrate the New Year.