For Auld Lang Syne

Happy New Year, Friends!

Wow, I simply cannot believe 2018 is almost here.  In less than 48 hours, the first of you will celebrate the strike of midnight and the rest of us will follow as the waves of time roll across the dark, deep sea.

A new year.  A new beginning.  A fresh start.  A blank page beckoning to be written upon.  What will you write on your page this year?


In my great love affair with Scotland, I learned something that I would like to share with you.  If I were to quiz you on the name of the song sung on New Year’s Eve the world over, you would probably tell me it’s ‘Auld Lang Syne’.  And you would be correct.  But does anyone (aside from our awesome friends-the Brits) know to whom the song is attributed?  I never really gave it much thought, but how strange that so many of us across the globe ring in the new year singing the exact same tune and yet the majority of us likely do not know where it originated or even understand what the words are all about.  It reminds me of the humorous dialogue exchange between Billy Crystal’s and Meg Ryan’s characters at the end of one of my favorite movies, ‘When Harry Met Sally’.

Harry: [about Auld Lang Syne] What does this song mean? My whole life, I don’t know what this song means. I mean, ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot’? Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot?

Sally: Well, maybe it just means that we should remember that we forgot them or something. Anyway, it’s about old friends.

-from ‘When Harry Met Sally’, 1989

Roughly translated “for old times’ sake” or “days gone by”, ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is nothing if not all about preserving old friendships, raising a glass, and looking back with nostalgia over the events of the year.  It is a song steeped in sentimentality that has the power to momentarily bind us together in remembrance, in the celebration of the moment, and in hope for the future.  Joy, kinship and comaraderie…even melancholy and regret…these are just a few of the feelings I think this song has the power to invoke.  Thus is the great power of music.

I challenge you to replace the words ‘auld lang syne’ with ‘for old times’ sake’ when you read the lyrics (bottom of post).  It will take on a brand new meaning.

Like so many other good things that have come out of Scotland, so did this iconic tune.  It was in the year 1788 that Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns,

Photo:  Public Domain

first submitted the words to James Johnson, a gentleman who was compiling a book of old Scottish songs called The Scots Musical Museum.  Written in the Scots language, Robert (or Rabbie, as I affectionately like to call him-sigh) was not the original composer of the song’s lyrics, but was the first to pen the words of a much older Scottish folk song that some say he took down from a conversation with an old man.  Even though Burns submitted the words to Johnson in 1788, the poem did not appear in print until shortly after his death in 1796.  Since then, ‘Auld Lang Syne’ has been translated into many languages and is sung throughout the world.  I think ol’ Rabbie would have been pleased to know that.

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Originally, the lyrics to ‘Auld Lang Syne’ were set to a different tune than that which we are all familiar.  And if you do a Google search for recordings of the song, you will find a few slightly altered versions performed by some of today’s contemporary artists.  My absolute favorite is sung by Scottish musician Mairi Campbell.  I read somewhere that her version may have actually been the original tune, but I don’t know if there is any truth in that.  Anyway, I dare you to listen to it and not be moved.

So how did a tune from Scotland find such fame throughout the world?  Its initial popularity coincided with the age of Scottish emigration in the 19th century, particularly to the United States and Canada.  With its roots firmly established in the hearts of the Scottish diaspora, the rest of us were simply to be the lucky recipients of this beautiful gift of poetry.

This weekend, every one of us will take our first steps into 2018.  Whether you go boldly or tentatively, excitedly or with reluctance, I hope you will be able to see 2018 as a clean slate that is just brimming with hope and possibility.  I also hope that now, at the stroke of midnight when you find yourself singing this old, familiar tune, that your ears and heart will hear it with a new affection and understanding-as you reflect upon the year that has passed and look ahead to new things to come.

I sincerely wish each of you a happy new year, filled with joy, peace, and friendship.

Because anyway, it’s about old friends.

‘Auld Lang Syne’:  Scots Version

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’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 foot

Sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,

Frae mornin’ 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 guid willy waught,

For auld lang syne.

‘Auld Lang Syne:  English Version

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

And old lang syne? (ie. ‘for old times’ sake)



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 me a hand o’ thine!

And we’ll take a right good-will draught,

For auld lang syne.


Cheers my friends,



*Featured image courtesy of Pixabay

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