The history of Auld Lang Syne


Illustration to Robert Burns’ poem Auld Lang Syne

As the clock strikes midnight on New Years eve one song will, in households up and down the country be sung with gusto; Auld Lang Sayne. But how is the history and tradition of this song?

It is an old Scottish song that was first published by the poet Robert Burns in the 1796 edition of the book, Scots Musical Museum. Burns transcribed it (and made some refinements to the lyrics) after he heard it sung by an old man from the Ayrshire area of Scotland.

Auld Lang Syne literally translates as ‘old long since’ and means ‘times gone by.’ The song asks whether old friends and times will be forgotten and promises to remember people of the past with fondness.

Guy Lombardo popularized the song and turned it into a New Year’s tradition. Lombardo first heard Auld Lang Syne in his hometown of London, Ontario, where it was sung by Scottish immigrants. When he and his brothers formed the famous dance band, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, the song became one of their standards. Lombardo played the song at midnight at a New Year’s eve party at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City in 1929, and a tradition was born.