Auld Lang Syne could be lost as only 3 per cent know the words

The future of Auld Lang Syne as the centrepiece of New Year celebrations around the world has been thrown into doubt after a new study showed just 3 per cent of people in the UK know the words.

Revellers cross their arms and link hands while singing Auld Lang Syne, Picture: Ian Georgeson
Revellers cross their arms and link hands while singing Auld Lang Syne, Picture: Ian Georgeson

Research by Sainsbury’s shows the majority can belt out the song’s chorus and the first few lines. However, 42 per cent of millennials do not know a single word.

It also found that more than half do not know Scottish bard Robert Burns wrote the words, with 3 per cent even believing Mariah Carey was the author.

Sainsbury’s has now put together a songsheet online in an effort to revive the tradition.

A spokesman for the retailer said: “We want everyone to have a great New Year’s Eve and singing Auld Lang Syne – or Old Land Sign as some people thought – is as much a part of our celebrations as a glass of fizz at midnight.

“We’ve revealed that many are missing out on this tradition because they don’t feel confident of the lyrics, so Sainsbury’s has created some handy song sheets so no-one has to hum along at the stroke of midnight this year.

“We hope all our customers ‘take a cup of kindness yet’ and have a very happy New Year.”


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Auld Lang Syne is sung as a way to bid farewell to the old year in many English-speaking countries. People will usually cross their arms to hold hands in circle throughout the song.

In Scotland, the tradition is to hold hands with the person next to you and only cross arms over your breast from the final verse, before rushing inwards when it is over.

When presented with lyrics from the song the majority of younger people had a hard time recognising them, with the study showing 54 per cent failed to identify the chorus, despite it featuring the words Auld Lang Syne.

Further errors included mistakenly believing lyrics from The Beatles (40 per cent), Abba (60 per cent), Taylor Swift (34 per cent) and Little Mix (30 per cent) were lines from the 18th century poem.

Snoop Dogg’s lyrics to his song New Year’s Eve - “And every time I see you shine. It’s like the lights of midnight. On New Year’s Eve” - were thought to be part of the song by 45 per cent of respondents.

Scots did not fare much better - just 7 per cent said they knew all the lyrics, while most admitted they knew hardly any.


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However, eight out of tenpeople north of the border correctly identified Burns as the man who wrote the song.