In a very timely Vox video essay, Laura Bult and Mallory Branagan rather helpfully explain the history and the meaning of the original lyrics to “Auld Lang Syne” – the iconic song that people in the United States sing to greet the incoming new year. The song has been adapted for American ears, but the song comes from very strong Scottish roots.
The guy who popularized this song was one of Scotland’s most famous exports: Robert Burns. Burns was a poet writing in the 1700’s, just after Scotland and England unified to create the kingdom of Great Britain. He witnessed the decline of traditional Scottish culture in favor of English norms. So he devoted the end of his life to preserving this dying culture, by traveling the country to collect traditional poetry and songs to get them published. Auld Lang Syne was one of those songs.