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Auld Lang Syne Tradition Linked to 19th-Century Freemasonry

Auld Lang Syne Tradition Linked to 19th-Century Freemasonry

Research Reveals Masonic Origins of Auld Lang Syne's Arm-Linking Tradition

Recent research has revealed that the practice of linking arms while singing Auld Lang Syne may have its roots in 19th-century Freemasonry.

Dr. Morag Grant, a musicologist at the University of Edinburgh, has uncovered evidence suggesting that this tradition originated in Masonic lodges, where communal singing with crossed hands and arms was a common ritual.

Robert Burns, who popularized Auld Lang Syne, was himself a Freemason.

His initiation into Lodge St. David in Tarbolton in 1781 and his continued support for the organization played a significant role in the song's adoption within Masonic circles.

Dr. Grant’s findings indicate that this custom may have first been associated with Auld Lang Syne at Masonic Burns suppers.

Dr. Grant explained, "The many traditions and rituals associated with the song, as well as its simple, singable tune, are key to understanding its phenomenal spread and why we still sing it today.

Auld Lang Syne is about the ties that bind us across the years, and even though its appeal is now global, it remains deeply rooted in the world Burns inhabited."

During her research, Dr. Grant discovered an 1879 newspaper article detailing a Burns supper at an Ayrshire lodge, where members sang Auld Lang Syne in a "circle of unity."

This ritualistic crossing of hands and arms was used by Masons and other fraternal organizations during songs of parting.

Dr. Grant believes that the now widespread tradition of singing Auld Lang Syne while linking arms likely spread from these Masonic rituals to the general public in the 19th century.

"It's remarkable how this song, written in a dialect even many Scots struggle with, has become synonymous with New Year celebrations worldwide," Dr. Grant noted.

The song's historical significance was also highlighted when Alexander Graham Bell used it to demonstrate the telephone in 1877.


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