In the Scottish Highlands, “Auld Lang Syne” has been a part of the country’s rich folk tradition for centuries and has since been adopted by countless cultures to be sung at the stroke of midnight.
Scottish author and poet Robert Burns was the first to transcribe “Auld Lang Syne” in 1788—though the song had long been in the collective culture of the Scots, handed down through generations and referenced in poetry and literature. With the addition of Burns’s newly composed verses, the ballad as we know it was born.
The words “auld lang syne” translate to “old long since,” but in the context of the song can be understood to mean “for old times’ sake.” The lyrics tell a tale of misadventure, rough seas, enduring friendship, and love. It’s a nostalgic toast to experiences of old that’s meant to be sung with the enthusiasm of a merry Scotsman whose dram is full.