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We all sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ on New Year’s — but what does it even mean?

Thank God New Year’s is upon us because, well, we’re calling uncle on 2016. The past year was a doozie — which is all the more reason to have a kick-ass party to ring in 2017.

And what New Year’s Eve shindig would be complete without a raucous, half-drunk (OK, totally drunk) rendition of “Auld Lang Syne”? The song is a total must, and the somehow wistful melody always conjures up serious emotion. Which is pretty miraculous, considering 99.9 percent of us don’t even know what the heck we are singing.

Let’s change that, shall we?

More: Madonna’s Billboard speech officially gave me my New Year’s resolution

“Auld Lang Syne” started as a poem written by Scotsman Robert Burns in 1788 and literally translates to “old long since” — or “long ago” and “old times.” So, when you’re singing the lyrics “for auld lang syne,” you’re singing “for old times sake,” according to Scotland magazine. In essence, “Auld Lang Syne” is a musical toast where you say “so long” to the past year.

Or, in this year’s case, raise a middle finger.

In other parts of the world, the song isn’t just used for New Year’s Eve. People also use it at funerals, commencement ceremonies and to end events, which clears up why the song just feels so emotional when you sing it.

We’ve rounded up seven of our favorite versions of “Auld Lang Syne” to play at your New Year’s soiree. The smooth tunes coupled with your historical knowledge of the song are sure to make you the belle of the ball.

1. Guy Lombardo’s version

If you’re having a swanky, old-school Mad Men-style get-together, this 1947 version of Lombardo’s arrangement with vocals is begging to be played.

2. Mariah Carey’s version

The queen of Christmas music apparently has the market cornered on New Year’s Eve too. But really, Carey’s voice never fails to raise the hair on our arms, and this version has a countdown and fun dance beat included.

3. The Red Hot Chilli Pipers’ version

No, that’s not a typo. The Red Hot Chilli Pipers rock some serious bagpipage, which is completely apropos for a song originated by a Scotsman.

4. Colbie Caillat’s version

Caillat’s sweet voice is somehow beachy no matter what the season, and her “Auld Lang Syne” is music to the ears of those who are ready for warmer weather in 2017.

5. Susan Boyle’s version

Boyle’s voice is crazy-good. Her version of the NYE classic is the bee’s knees.

6. The Beach Boys’ version

Because… it’s The Beach Boys! This rendition has been around for decades, but their harmonizing never gets old.

7. BBC Symphony Orchestra’s version

The booming sound of a full orchestra adds to the drama of “Auld Lang Syne,” and the BBC Symphony Orchestra nails it.

Before you go, check out our slideshow below.

pop songs meanings slideshow
Image: LadyGagaVEVO/YouTube

Originally published December 2012. Updated December 2016.

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