What's the history of "Auld Lang Syne"?
It's the first day of the new year and I'm trying to figure out what the song "old lang sine" [sic] is about and why it's a traditional song to celebrate the beginning of the new year. Can ya help a guy out? [ed note: It's Auld Lang Syne, actually, but I'll get into that in a sec.]
First off, Happy New Year!!
Okay, we got that out of the way. Now let's talk about Auld Lang Syne, the traditional song of New Year celebrations.
It turns out that Auld Lang Syne is the name of a poem originally written by Scottish poet Robert Burns back in 1790. Yes, it's been around that long! The title means "long time since" or "days gone by" and the original lyrics are:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
As the song has become popular for celebrating New Year (which has been happening since at least the late 1890s) the confusing Gaelic has been mostly translated into more common English equivalent, so odds are very good that these are the lyrics you sung:
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
There are a number of additional verses to the song, as detailed in Wikipedia, but most commonly the first verse and chorus is sung, everyone smooches their sweetheart / date / closest person and collapse into a pile of drunken exhaustion, which is, if you think about it, an odd way to start the new year!
The song shows up in surprising places too, including at the end of the sappy but popular movie It's a Wonderful Life, and according to Gracenote, there are almost 2000 versions of the song recorded including versions by Kenny G, Jimi Hendrix (the mind boggles), Barenaked Ladies, The Beach Boys, The Jingle Cats and Phish. The ubiquitous version, however, is unquestionably that orchestrated and played for over fifty years by big band leader Guy Lombardo.
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