Word(s) of the week: Auld Lang Syne

As it is the first day of a new year, I decided to research the meaning and history of the title (and lyrics) of this famous song, sung all over the world on New Year’s Eve.

auld_lang_syne-couple celebrating

Auld Lang Syne is a gift from Scotland to the world. The words to the song were written in the 18th century, but there are several different versions. The lyrics are mainly attributed to Robert Burns robert-burns(1759-1796), Scottish poet, and the original words are written in Scots, a language related to English but with its own pronunciation, form and unique vocabulary. This is why, popular as this song is and sung throughout the world on New Year’s Eve, most people have no idea what the song is about.

Auld lang syne means, roughly, “old long ago.” The song is about retaining old friendships, that whatever happens throughout our lives, we should remember our lifelong friends and hold them dear. This is an appropriate sentiment as we “ring out the old and ring in the new.”

The popularity of Auld Lang Syne has mainly to do with two factors. First, Scotland was influenced by Calvinism (introduced in the 16th century), out of which grew Presbyterianism. These Calvinist Presbyterians, until about 100 years or so ago, did not celebrate Christmas, which they considered “hedonistic” – the holiday’s most popular customs had nothing to do with the birth of Christ and in fact, most scholars believe that Christ was not born in December. Thus, Christmas was more associated with the winter solstice, celebrated by pagans.

RoyalScots-Dunnotar

Thus, in Scotland, the more important holiday of this period came to be New Year’s, or “Hogmanay” as they call it. Auld Lang Syne was thus sung during this time and became connected with New Year’s celebrations. Everyone likes a party, so the song, unintelligible to many people, becomes more so – and sung with more gusto – after one has had a few drinks!

Hogmanay celebration, Edinburgh
Hogmanay celebration, Edinburgh
Torchlight Procession, Edinburgh
Torchlight Procession, Edinburgh
Hogmanay Festival Fireworks
Hogmanay Festival Fireworks

The second factor was the American custom of watching television. The Canadian band leader, Guy Lombardo, broadcast a big band version of the song on New Year’s Eve beginning in 1929 (on the radio) and continued to be a yearly tradition until 1976 (by then broadcast on TV). This created another link to the holiday and became the tradition. What is a New Year’s celebration without singing Auld Lang Syne?

Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians
Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians

So raise your glasses one more time and get ready to sing: here are the words (in Scots, then translated into standard English) of all five verses 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 dear, (originally “my jo”)
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp, (pronounced “stoop”)
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wandered mony a weary fit
Sin’ auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidled i’ the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin’ auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right guid-willie waught

For auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Auld Lang Syne-words

English translation:

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And long, long ago.

(Refrain):
And for long, long ago, my dear
For long, long ago,
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For long, long ago.

And surely you’ll buy your pint-jug!
And surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For long, long ago.

(Refrain)

We two have run about the hills
And pulled the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many the weary foot
Since long, long ago.

(Refrain)

We two have paddled in the stream,
From morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
Since long, long ago.

(Refrain)

And there’s a hand, my trusty friend!
And give us a hand of yours!
And we’ll take a deep draught of good-will
For long, long ago.

(Refrain)

Happy-New-Year-2016

All images downloaded from Google Images.
Web sites used for research:
Vox.com
RobertBurns.org
www.carols.org.uk
www.scotland.org

One thought on “Word(s) of the week: Auld Lang Syne

  1. Knew some f this—not all. Good stuff. Marcia A., Midge, if she’s able, and you and I can run stuff before choir runthrough on Sunday. See you then. Oh, which of the characters are you doing in the skit?

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