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Michael Rielly
Michael Rielly

Auld Lang Syne

Every New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight, millions around the world traditionally gather together to sing the same song, “Auld Lang Syne”. As revilers mumble though the song’s versus, it often brings many of them to tears – regardless of the fact that most don’t know or even understand the lyrics. Confusion over the song’s lyrics is almost as much of a tradition as the song itself. Of course that rarely stops anyone from joining in.

Despite its association with New Years, “Auld Lang Syne” was never intended to be a holiday song. First published in 1787 by Scottish Poet Robert Burns, the song is about remembering friends from the past and not letting them be forgotten.

The title, “Auld Lang Syne”, literally translates to “Old Long Since” – meaning “time gone by” or “old time’s sake”. The lyrics "We'll take a cup o' kindness yet" essentially means to raise a glass in a toast to good will, friendship, and kindness towards others. The custom of drinking to one’s health or prosperity at a special gathering dates back hundreds of years.

Auld Lang Syne Robert Burns Original Scots Lyrics

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

CHORUS:

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’lltak' 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.

CHORUS

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.

CHORUS

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.

CHORUS  

Auld Lang Syne English Translation

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

CHORUS:

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.

CHORUS

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

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.

Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians

Although the song was already popular in Canada and the United States by the early 19th Century, Canadian-born musician, Guy Lombardo (1912-1977) is often credited with the popularization of Auld Lang Syne.

Lombardo first heard "Auld Lang Syne" growing up in London, Ontario, where it was often sung by Scottish immigrants. When he formed his orchestra, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, the song became one of their standards. But it wasn’t until 1929 that “Auld Lang Syne” became a New Year’s Eve tradition.

During a live radio broadcast on New Year’s Eve at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, Guy Lombardo chose the song as a transition between two radio shows. The first half of their New Year’s Eve performance was broadcasted on CBS. The second half of the performance, beginning at midnight, was broadcasted on NBC. At the stroke of midnight, the orchestra played “Auld Lang Syne” as a segue from one show to the next – and a tradition was born.

In a 1976 New York Times interview, Lombardo recalls the decision to play Auld Lang Syne at midnight:

“We knew we were going to use ‘Auld Lang Syne’ as a theme, because Robert Burns wrote it.”

“So we decided to use it on that New Year’s Eve program, too. It seemed appropriate, and we were familiar with ‘Auld Lang Syne’ from Canada, where we grew up. As kids, we lived in a big Scottish settlement — London, Ontario — and they always closed an evening by playing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ before the traditional ‘God Save the King.'”

Auld Lang Syne - Guy Lombardo And His Royal Canadians (1947)

 

Christmas Auld Lang Syne

In 1960, pop singer Bobby Darin put his own spin on the classic tune. Officially titled, “Christmas Auld Lang Syne”, Darin’s version of the song was released as a single in October 1960. On December 13, 1960 Darin performed "Christmas Auld Lang Syne" on ABC’s American Bandstand. The next week, the song entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 Chart.

Christmas Auld Lang Syne Lyrics

When mistletoe and tinsel glow
Paint a yuletide valentine
Back home I go to those I know
For a Christmas auld lang syne.

And as we gather 'round the tree
Our voices all combine
In sweet accord to thank the Lord
For a Christmas auld lang syne.

When sleigh bells ring and choirs sing
And the children's faces shine
With each new toy we share their joy
With a Christmas auld lang syne.

We sing His praise this day of days
And pray next year this time
We'll all be near to share the cheer
Of a Christmas auld lang syne.

In sweet accord we thank the Lord
For a Christmas auld lang syne.

Christmas Auld Lang Syne - Bobby Darin (1960)

 

Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life is my favorite movie of all time. And even though I have watched this film literally hundreds of times, it is the end scene that always gets me. When Harry Bailey toasts his brother George and the crowd breaks into "Auld Lang Syne", it always brings me to tears.

What makes “Auld Lang Syne” so powerful is it has nothing to do with a new year and everything to do the importance of relationships. With its themes of friendship, reconciliation, and nostalgia, “Auld Lang Syne” reminds us that whatever changes life may bring, old friends should never be forgotten.

Edited by Michael Rielly

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Santa Bill Reiller

Posted

One of my favorite movies.  I did not know that Lombardo grew up in London, Ontario.  I have relatives near there.

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