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Auld Lang Syne — What Are the Lyrics, and What Do They Mean? [Karaoke Version Included!]

New Year's Eve
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You hear it every year on New Year’s Eve, and every year it’s a mystery — the song “Auld Lang Syne.”  What does that even mean, anyway?  Why do we sing it? 

Well, first off, let’s start with the title — it’s Scottish.  ”Auld lang syne” translates loosely to “old long since.”  In other words, “long, long ago.”  (George Lucas could have started Star Wars with “Auld lang syne in a galaxy far, far away,” if he’d been Scottish.)

The song is commonly credited to Scottish poet Robert Burns in the late 1700s, but the seeds of the song may go as far back as the 1580s.  (I won’t go into crazy detail on that — you can read it for yourself if you’re interested.  Looks like Mr. Burns didn’t mind stealing a phrase or two…)

But it looks like Burns at least put everything together, added his own touches and helped pick the tune that goes with it.  (Burns set the words to a song that was probably already half a century old when he finished the lyrics.)  Simply put, it’s a sad song about two friends who have seen some times together, and they hope they can stay together through the years to have yet another drink to their past (“We’ll take a cup of kindness yet…”)

Yep, that sounds like the New Year’s Eve I know.

It’s a song of remembrance for good times and for friends no longer around.  It’s a promise to keep together as time goes by, and like any Scottish song about drinking, it’s guaranteed to put a tear in your beer.

Thanks to Scotland.org, here’s a full translation of the song to sing with your friends over a glass of bubbly.

Auld Lang Syne

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne ago.

Chorus:
And for long, long ago, 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-jug!
And surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Chorus

We two have run about the hills
And pulled the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered manys the weary foot
Since auld lang syne.

Chorus

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

Chorus

And there’s a hand, my trusty friend!
And give us a hand of yours!
And we’ll take a deep draught of good-will
For auld lang syne.

Chorus

And, if you need to go all karaoke for New Year’s, here’s one you can sing along with that looks like it was made on an old Atari:

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