The Story of Auld Lang Syne

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Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And days o’ auld lang syne.

Auld Lang Syne is probably the most popular, if not the only New Year’s song known to man.  In fact, there is hardly a chance of any mention of the season without associating it with the lyric and vice versa.  So how did this melody come to be, anyway?  Who was the person who composed the song that made New Year the way it is and always will be?

To whom do we give credit?
Auld Lang Syne began as a poem written by Robert Burns, a Scottish poet in 1788.  The phrase literally means “old long since,” or “long, long ago.”  The tune was taken from an old Scottish folk song.  Eventually, Auld LangSyne was sung as tradition to commemorate the New Year in Scotland and the British Isles. As people from that region emigrated to the United States, they brought the tradition along with them and eventually, it meshed with American culture. Today, the song is sung not only during New Year’s eve, but also during graduations, farewell ceremonies, and other events.

Who is Robert Burns?

Robert Burns is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland.  He was born on January 25, 1759 to a poor tenant farmer.  His family lived in a cottage that his father had built, and worked the fields with his siblings during his childhood years.  As an adult, he wrote several volumes of poetry that were very well received.  Burns died on July 21, 1796, at the very young age of 37.

What were the original lyrics?

The following is Burns’ original Scots verse (taken from

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 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.


More from this series:

Music History:  The Story of  Jingle Bells

Music History:  The Story of The Happy Birthday Song

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