According to infoplease.com, Burns penned the poem in 1788. It became a traditional Scottish song, and came to the New World where bandleader Guy Lombardo heard it in his native Ontario. His band first played the song at midnight, New Year's Eve, 1929, at the Waldorf Astoria. He played it at that time every year at the Waldorf until 1976. Thus, the tradition was born...
Patty and I watched "When Harry Met Sally" last night, and Billy Crystal asks Meg Ryan what that song is all about... The literal meaning of “Auld Lang Syne” is “Old Long Since” or “Long, Long Ago”.
“Should old acquaintance be forgot / and never brought to mind? / Should old acquaintance be forgot / and days o' lang syne?” - These lines ask whether one can forget the days that have gone by and the friends with whom those days have been spent.
The lyrics talk about raising a toast to days gone by and all the festive adventures shared between friends. I would add, Masons use the song as a conclusion to table lodges, so we recall the days gone by and festive adventures shared by Brothers.
We'll take a cup of kindness yet / for Auld Lang Syne.
Happy New Year, brothers!