Auld Lang Syne

Happy New Year!  Perhaps you, like our family, heard or sung that song at midnight on New Year’s Eve; the one that most of us don’t know all the words for, and don’t understand the words we do know.  Auld Lang Syne has become a traditional New Year’s song. It seems that the history of this music is a meandering journey of fact and folklore.  Here are some things to consider as you create meaning for this well-known song.

While Auld Lang Syne is credited to Scottish poet Robert Burns dating to 1788, it is more likely that Burns was merely the first to put it in print, rather than the original author.  It has been suggested that the words are Burn’s creative interpretation of a Scottish ballad by James Watson, printed in 1711, which Burns heard recited by an old man in a pub. Burns wrote down the ballad in a letter to his friend, and then later revised it to resemble more closely the lyrics of the song we know today.   It is likely that the original tune was different from the modern version we know, and was presumably sung to a familiar Scottish folk tune.  The melody we know was suggested later by music publisher James Johnson when it was printed, with words credited to Burns, in his book of old Scottish songs, The Scots Musical Museum a few years later.

Auld Lang Syne was not written as a New Year’s Eve song, rather as a ballad telling of the memories of boyhood friendship set against the beautiful Scottish landscape.  It invites friends to have a drink together to celebrate the good times they had in the past and welcome more good fortune in the years to come.  In the late 1920’s Guy Lombardo and his band played the song at a New Year’s Eve party as a transition piece between numbers.  It was so well received that it became tradition for Lombardo and his band to include it in their New Year’s broadcast for the next 30 years.  Still today, it is the first song heard at midnight in many countries around the world.

I love this version of the song.  Maybe you will enjoy listening as you watch the breathtaking views of Scotland in the video.

And so I wish you good fortune in 2018.  Celebrate your relationships and experiences of the past, because that’s what has made you the wonderful person you are.  And welcome, with an open heart, new adventures in your future – maybe that’s not as poetic as Robert Burns might write, but I think I’m close to a similar message.

Auld Lang Syne Translated, taken from

 Should old friends be forgotten
and never remembered
Should old friends be forgotten
and the days they shared together


For days now in the past, my dear

For days now in the past

We’ll drink a toast of kind remembrance

For days now in the past.

You can pay for your pint tankard
and I will pay for mine
We’ll drink a toast of kind remembrance
For days now in the past

We two have run about the hillsides
and pulled wild daisies
but now we are far apart in distance

From those days now in the past

We two have paddled in the stream
from morning until noon
but oceans now lie between us
since those days now in the past

So take my hand, my trusty friend
and give me your hand
and we will take a hearty drink together
In memory of those days now in the past

Posted in Pep Talks

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