You may be one of those to sing a few lines of “Auld Lang Syne” (“s” not “z”) tonight. This Scottish folk song was popularized by poet Robert Burns who added some lines of his own.
By way of an episode of FT Arts podcast, The Life of a Song: Auld Lang Syne, I learned a lot about that song.
We don’t sing the melody Burns originally intended. And this odd ballad is as much about reunions as it is about separations. Auld lang syne (the phrase) is associated with year’s end. And the song is used to signal closing time in Japanese department stores.
The song’s title may be translated into English as “old long since” – or “long long ago”, “days gone by” or “old times”. “For auld lang syne”, as it appears in the first line of the chorus, might be loosely translated as “for the sake of old times.”
In Scotland, New Year’s Eve marks the first day of Hogmanay. The name is derived from an Old French word for a gift given at the New Year. One Hogmanay tradition is “first-footing.” If the first person to cross your threshold after midnight is a dark-haired man, you will have good luck in the coming year.
Ring out the old, ring in the new
Ring, happy bells, across the snow
The year is going, let him go
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson