"Should auld acquaintance be forgot" ... these are the opening lyrics to the famous song Auld Lang Syne - but what does it mean? 

The verse, written by legendary Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788, is traditionally sung at New Year's gatherings in Scotland and around the world.

At the stroke of midnight, people come together to sing the tune as they bid farewell to the old year and welcome in the new.

Here is everything you need to know about the song as you bring in the bells.

Swindon Advertiser: See what Auld Lang Syne literally means (PA)See what Auld Lang Syne literally means (PA) (Image: PA)

Auld Lang Syne literal meaning in English and what it's about

In Scots, Auld Lang Syne means "for the sake of old times" or "time gone by".

A more literal translation of Auld Lang Syne would read as "old long since".

The song describes a pair of friends reminiscing and raising a drink for old time’s sake.

Words to Auld Lang Syne

While the original is, of course, in Scots verse.

However, possibly the most recognisable lyrics, and the ones most people sing on Hogmanay, is the traditional English translation which can be seen below.

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you'll buy your pint cup!
and surely I'll buy mine!
And we'll take a cup o' kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We two have run about the hills,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we've wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.


And there's a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o' thine!
And we'll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.


Why do we hold hands during Auld Lang Syne?

Millions of people around the world link hands when they bring in the New Year and sing their hearts out to Auld Lang Syne. 

Its origins as a Hogmanay tradition are said to come from freemasonry, according to researchers from the University of Edinburgh. 

People would sing with their arms crossed and hands joined as a parting ritual at many Masonic lodges, the BBC has reported.

The news outlet also reported that a newspaper article of an Ayrshire lodge's Burns Supper in 1879 described Auld Lang Syne being sung as members formed "the circle of unity".

This is a Masonic ritual also called the "chain of union".

Musicologist Dr Morag Grant reportedly discovered the connection in the archives at Glasgow's Mitchell Library.

Dr Grant said that the tradition of singing the song at times of parting, with crossed hands, emerged in the mid-19th century among Freemasons and other fraternal organisations.