Auld Lang Syne

Auld Lang Syne

Sing along to Auld Lang Syne here:

Auld Lang Syne  (My Version)

At the conclusions of the old year, after the seconds are counted down and the stroke of midnight resounds, there is always one song loudly sung by people of all ages, races and creeds to usher in the New Year.

Usually everyone joins hands with the person next to them to form a great big circle. At the beginning of the last verse, everyone crosses their arms across their breast, so that the right hand reaches out to the neighbour on the left and vice versa. When the song ends, everyone rushes to the centre while still holding hands, shrinking the circle, and then everyone turns under their arms to end up facing outwards with their hands still joined. Sound like fun?

Did you know that Auld Lang Syne is actually a Scots poem written by Robert Burns in 1788? The poem later on was set to the tune of traditional folk song. From its humble beginnings it was always deemed an appropriate song for New Year, for it symbolizes “endings and new beginnings”. It is therefore also sung at graduations, funerals and as a farewell to persons leaving on a journey. The literal English interpretation of the title “Auld Lang Syne” can be any one of these: “Old long since” or, more idiomatically, “Long long ago”, “Days gone by” or “Old times.”  The song begins with a rhetorical question as to whether it is right that the old times be forgotten, and encourages one to be mindful of long-standing friendships. In the publication of “Select Songs of Scotland”, by Thomson in 1799, the second verse of “Old Lang Syne” about greeting and toasting, was moved to its present position at the end.

Robert Burns had sent the copy of the original song to the Scots Musical Museum with the remark, “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”. Suffice to say some of the lyrics were indeed “collected” rather than composed by the poet. The ballad “Old Long Syne” printed in 1711 by James Watson shows incredible similarity in the first verse and the chorus to Burn’s later poem, and is almost certainly copied from the same “old song”. The rest of the poem can be attributed to Burns himself; however, there is some speculation as to whether the melody widely used in Scotland and the rest of the world today is the same one Burns had originally used. One thing is for certain it is a very contagious song. The song sang on Hogmanay or New Year’s Eve quickly became a Scots custom that soon spread like wildfire to other parts of the British Isles. As Scots, including English, Irish and Welsh immigrants, settled around the world they took with them this old tradition. In America, the Canadian band leader Guy Lombardo in 1929 used it in his New Year’s Eve celebrations through his annual broadcasts on radio and television. The song soon became his trademark and the rest, as they say, is history.

Here’s an interesting list of Auld Lang Syne’s adaptation in some of the Non-English speaking countries:

Mexico: The song is sung in Spanish – “No es mas que un hasta luego, no es mas que un breve adios, muy pronto junto al fuego nos reunira el Senor”. (Interpretation: It is a just “see you later”, a brief farewell, soon around the fire and the Lord will bring us together). It is popular both at farewell parties and at the end of Scout gatherings, usually around a big fire.

Chile: The melody is sung in Spanish as a funeral farewell song, especially in the Catholic Church: “Llego la hora de decir adios, digamos, al partir, nuestra cancion”, meaning –“It is time to say goodbye, let’s sing, while we leave, this song”.

Peru: There is a song called “Jipi Jay” with the same melody: a happier sentiment.

India: The melody was the direct inspiration for the popular Bengali song “Purano shei diner kotha”, meaning- memories of the Good Old days.

China: The song is sung for friendship. It is also sung at graduations and funerals as the meaning infers the ending of a relationship. Here it is a sad song.

Thailand: The song “Samakkhi Chumnum” (Together in unity), which is set to Auld Lang Syne melody, is sung at New Year, after sports and Boy Scout Jamboree.

France: The song is called “Ce n’est qu’un au revoir mes frères” (Translation: This is just a goodby my brothers), and is usually sung for farewells.

Germany: The song is called “Nehmt Abschied Bruder”

Denmark:  In 1927 the song was translated by Danish poet Jeppe Aakjaer.  The song “Skuld gammel venskab rejn forgo” (Translation: Should auld acquaintance be forgot) is an integral part of the Danish Hojkole tradition.

Finland: The Auld Lang Syne is known under the name “Taa ystavyysei raukene”. (Translation: This friendship shall never end. The verses go on to say, translated, “but will last forever. Great then is our joy, once we meet again. Our roads may separate, the memories will remain. So thank you for everything and bye farewell”).

Hungary: The same tune, the song “Regi, regi dal” (Translated: Old, old song), is sung by school-leavers at their graduation.

Greece: Here the song carries the meaning again of “Song of Farewell” and is used for ending ceremony of Boy Scout Jamborees.

Japan: “Auld Lang Syne” tune is used in a song is called “Hotaru no hikari”(Translation: Glow of a firefly) The lyrics depicts a series of hardship images that the assiduous student endures in his relentless pursuit for knowledge, starting with the firefly’s light, which the student uses to keep studying when he has no other light sources.  It is played in graduation ceremonies and at the conclusion of the school day. Many restaurants and stores play it to usher customers out at the finish of business day. NHK also plays it during New Year’s Celebration.

Taiwan:  The melody is usually associated with the funeral services.

Belgium: It is sung among students during typical cantus (which is a medieval ecclesiastical chant, a melody or style of singing used in the medieval Christian church). A Dutch adaptation, “Ik zeq je qeen vaarwel mijn vriend, wij zien elkander weer, (Translated: I will not say goodbye, my friend, we will meet once again), is far more popular however among the general population of Netherlands and Flanders.

Netherlands:  The tune is known for the Dutch football song “Wij houden van Oranje” (Translation: We love Orange) performed by Andre Hazes.

Poland: The “Braterski Krqq (Brotherly Circle) song is set to the same melody. The Polish scouting movement traditionally sings it as the second last song during their meetings. The well known lyrics, translated mean, “By another campfire on another night we’ll see each other again”.

Zimbabwe: The tune is sung in Shona as a farewell, funeral song, “Famba zvinyoronyoro, tichasanganiswa muropa ra jes.

Sudan: The song was translated into Arabic in 1951 by Ahmed Mohammed Saad and is usually used in New Year celebrations and at graduation ceremonies.


When I was younger and didn’t know the words very well, I simply hummed the tune, sometimes mouthing some of the words. In case there are those of you who still don’t know the lyrics to this song, I’ve taken the trouble to write three versions of it. See which one appeals to you best.

1.  English 

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


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.


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


And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give us a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.


2.   Id Long Syne, by James Watson (1711):

“Should Old Acquaintance be forgot, and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
on Old long syne.


On Old long syne my Jo,
in Old long syne,
That thou canst never once reflect,
on Old long syne.

My Heart is ravisht with delight,
when thee I think upon;
All Grief and Sorrow takes the flight,
and speedily is gone;
The bright resemblance of thy Face,
so fills this, Heart of mine;
That Force nor Fate can me displease,
for Old long syne.


Since thoughts of thee doth banish grief,
when from thee I am gone;
will not thy presence yield relief,
to this sad Heart of mine:
Why doth thy presence me defeat,
with excellence divine?
Especially when I reflect
on Old long syne


(Several further stanzas)

3.   Burns’ Original Scots Verse:

“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 (or my dear),
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
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 pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d i’ 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-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.




Happy New Year Everyone



One response to “Auld Lang Syne

  1. Thanks for explanation, puts some light behind this popular folksong, best wishes for 2012,

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