The fact that few actually know all of the words, let alone their meaning, has rarely stopped anyone from joining in.
In 1788 he sent a copy of the song to his friend, Mrs Agnes Dunlop, exclaiming: "There is more of the fire of native genius in it than in half a dozen of modern English Bacchanalians!" Five years later he sent it to James Johnson, who was compiling a book of old Scottish songs, The Scottish Musical Museum, with an explanation: "The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man." And not just for five minutes per year.
The tune was used by the Maldives and Korea for their national anthems, while Japanese department stores play it as a polite reminder for customers to leave at closing time.
Aside from Cliff Richard's dubious merging of the Lord's Prayer with the tune for Millennium Prayer, a festive chart-topper best left forgotten, Auld Lang Syne's championing of passing time and goodwill means it is often chosen to mark funerals (like that of Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau), graduations and, in It's A Wonderful Life, at Christmas.
In 1972's The Poseidon Adventure, the playing of Auld Lang's Syne was a harbinger of doom: it was during the luxury ship SS Poseidon's December 31 celebrations that a tidal wave capsized the boat.