What Does Auld Lang Syne Mean, Anyway?!
Jan 02, 2012 | 4363 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
You hear it every year at the stroke of midnight on December 31st, and you'll hear it again in a few days. The clock rolls over to the new year. Couples embrace and kiss. And in the background the orchestra plays Auld Lang Syne. What does it mean?

Mrs. Seago, my high school English teacher, would be so pleased my journey has brought me back, once again, to one of her favorite authors. Robert Burns, or as she liked to call him "Bobby Burns," is the Scotsman credited with writing the lyrics we sing at the dawn of the new year. He did so roughly about the time the new United States Constitution came into being two hundred twenty plus years ago.

The song is sung to an old tune Scottish folks had long used. It is a song which poses a rhetorical question. It asks if we should forget old times and old friends. It strongly implies we should not. Thus, as the clock rolls over on a new year, we are asked to take a glance backward and to remember those who have been dear to us.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

and never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

and auld lang syne?

The title of the song roughly translates to "old long since," or perhaps more accurately "long since old." Its chorus is therefore "for the sake of old times."

To the honor of Burns, he did not represent the song as his exclusive work, although we give him credit for it. A good seventy-seven years prior to his 1788 publication of the song, another Scotsman wrote a song with very similar lyrics. In 1711, the song "Old Long Syne" was published by James Watson. The truth is we do not know for a certainty who originated the song beyond the writings of Burns and Watson, who should probably both be given credit.

Band leader Guy Lombardo is credited with popularizing the song as the New Year's Eve standard. It appears that in 1929 he began using the song in annual radio broadcasts. Lombardo was a Canadian, a fact I never knew until writing this column, although I grew up hearing his name mentioned every year about this time. The song became his trademark and by 1939 he had recorded it.

Wikipedia has an excellent discussion of the song and its history. I have relied heavily upon that article and recommend it to you if you'd like to know more about the song. And in answer to the question - no, old friends and old times should not be forgotten, but remembered and cherished. As the new year rolls in, it's always good to recall that we did not get where we are by ourselves. We have had help along the way. None of us got here by ourselves.

© 2012, Jim “Pappy” Moore,

All Rights Reserved.

Jim “Pappy” Moore is a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his home. oaktreefm58@juno.com

Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet