Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Auld Lang Syne
"Auld Lang Syne" is one of the best known songs in English-speaking countries. Yet, it is sometimes referred to jokingly as "the song that nobody knows," since many people can recall the melody easily but know only a fraction of the words. It is usually sung each year on New Year's Eve at midnight and signifies the start of a new year. It is also used as the graduation song in Taiwan. In Japan, many stores play it to usher customers out at the end of a business day. Before the composition of Aegukga, the lyrics of Korea's national anthem was sung to the tune of this song.
It has also been used on other occasions, mostly as a sign of saying farewell. One occasion that falls in this category was in October 2000, when the body of former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau left Parliament Hill in Ottawa for the last time, going to Montreal for the state funeral.
"Auld Lang Syne" was transcribed and published by the Scottish poet Robert Burns, based on earlier Scots ballads. Robert Burns forwarded a copy of the original song to the British Museum with the remark, "The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man's singing, is enough to recommend any air." The tune Burns suggested is not the tune we use today.
Scots "Auld Lang Syne" is equivalent to English "old long since" and can best be translated as "times gone by". In Scots "'Syne" is pronounced identically to the English word sign, (IPA ) — not zine [zaIn] as many people sing it.
Singing the song on Hogmanay or New Year's Eve is a Scottish custom.
Bandleader Guy Lombardo popularized the association of the song with New Year's Eve, through his annual broadcasts on radio and TV, beginning in 1929. However, he did not invent or first introduce the custom. The ProQuest newspaper archive has articles going back to 1896 that describe revellers on both sides of the Atlantic singing the song to usher in the New Year. Two examples:
New York Times, Jan 5, 1896. p. 10 HOLIDAY PARTIES AT LENOX [Mass.]. ... The company joined hands in the great music room at midnight and sang "Auld Lang Syne" as the last stroke of 12 sounded and the new year came in.
Washington Post, Jan 2, 1910. p. 12 NEW YEAR'S EVE IN LONDON. Usual Customs Observed by People of All Classes. ... The passing of the old year was celebrated in London much as usual. The Scotch residents gathered outside of St. Paul's Church and sang "Auld Lang Syne" as the last stroke of 12 sounded form the great bell.
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