Auld Lang Syne: The History Behind This New Year's Eve Theme Song

It's another year to grapple on amidst the on-going coronavirus health crisis, nonetheless, we're happy that we made it through difficult times and able to live another day and celebrate the New Year. Cheers!🥂🎉

I won't be making any new year's resolution, it's kinda tiring to prepare a yearly resolution when each year things are going to change due to circumstances beyond our control.

Instead, let's talk about the interesting story behind the song, "Auld Lang Syne". 

You see, this song has become the national anthem of New Year's eve around the world for generations now. In every English-speaking country, everyone's ringing the new year with this song but maybe only few ever memorize the lyrics.

Auld Lang Syne. So what it really means?

It's an 18th-century Scottish phrase which has an English translation of  "Old Long Since". The Scottish government translated the phrase into "For Old Times Sake", and later applied the melody based on the traditional Scottish folk song.

Though it is historically associated to Scottish poet and lyricist, Robert Burns, no one actually knows who originally wrote it. 

Others claimed it was first published in 1711 and Burns took some parts of the phrase to write his poem.

The History

Auld Lang Syne's history can be traced back to the 18th century Scotland when Robert Burns wrote a poem in 1788 based on an older Scottish  folk song, "Old Long Syne".

He then sent a copy of his poem to the Scottish Musical Museum with a 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 last phrase clearly indicated he was not the original creator of the poem but just collected from an older piece.

Some doubted if the present-day melody is the same as what Burns really intended but the current melody has been what the Scots have been using for centuries now. 

The rest of the world adapted the melody, and lyrics have been translated to modern English and other languages.

Burns had never actually intended to make it a farewell song for an old year, but generations after him decided to put a melody on his poem because the lyrics fit the parting of a year's sentiment and the reunion of relatives and friends, reminiscing memories - "for the sake of old times".

It is believed Scots introduced the song to England and Wales then spread to English-speaking countries in the succeeding centuries. 

"For Old Times Sake"

Auld Lang Syne in today's term, "For Old Times Sake", is about old friends or acquaintances separated by time and circumstances, and then meet again, and to celebrate the long lost friendship, they have to share drinks while joyfully reminiscing the old times. 

The thought has since been compared to present-day family and friendship situations, separated by circumstances, then will have a happy reunion and gatherings during the holiday season.

Thus, it has become a New Year's eve traditional theme song because it symbolizes reunion, gatherings, seeing old friends, seeing family and loved ones in such a special occasion. And to part an old year with memories, good or bad, while gleefully welcoming another year full of hope and great anticipation.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, who are carrying the titles, Duke and Duchess of Rothesay when in Scotland, visited the birth place of Robert Burns in Scotland.

The opening lines of the song are questions if we should forget our friends: "Should old acquaintances be forgotten, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintances be forgotten. And days of long ago!

Robert Burns original Scottish poem of Auld Lang Syne:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my jo, for auld lang syne.
We will tak' a cup o'kindness yet, for auld lang syne
And surely ye'll be your pint-stoup!
and surely I'll be mine, and we'll tak' a cup o'kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes, and pou'd the gowans fine
but we've wander'd mony a weary fit, sin' auld lang syne
We twa hae paidl'd in the burn, frae morning sun till dine
But seas between us braid hae roar'd, sin auld lang syne

And there's a hand, my trusty fiere! 
and gie's a hand o'thine! And we'll tak a right gude-willie waught for auld lang syne

Translation in English which we are singing today:

Should old acquaintances be forgotten,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintances be forgotten,
And days of long ago !
For old long ago, my dear
For old long ago,
We will take a cup of kindness yet
For old long ago.

We two have run about the hillsides
And pulled the daisies fine,
But we have wandered many a weary foot
For old long ago.

We two have paddled (waded) in the stream
From noon until dinner time,
But seas between us broad have roared
Since old long ago.

And there is a hand, my trusty friend,
And give us a hand of yours,
And we will take a goodwill draught (of ale)
For old long ago!

And surely you will pay for your pint,
And surely I will pay for mine!
And we will take a cup of kindness yet
For old long ago!

Here's to wishing everyone a happy new year 2022! May this year be a grace-filled year for everyone and for the world to be finally freed from the pandemic.

Cheers to another year of hope and memories to keep and cherish! 🍷

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