The New Year’s Eve Song That Came Before “Auld Lang Syne”

Before New Year’s Eve revelers sang Should auld acquaintance be forgot / And never brought to mind / Should auld acquaintance be forgot / And the days of auld lang syne? to the Robert Burns-penned “Auld Lang Syne” another song was used to bring in the new year.

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Parting Days

The traditional song “The Parting Glass,” which has been attributed to Ireland and Scotland, was typically sung with a gathering and parting of friends before “Auld Lang Syne” was written by Burns in 1788.

The parting glass was a final drink, or offering, to guests before their departure.

Of all the money that e’er I had
I spent it in good company
And all the harm I’ve ever done
Alas, it was to none but me

And all I’ve done for want of wit
To memory now I can’t recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be to you all

[RELATED: Why Do We Sing “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s?]

“The Parting Glass” was often sung as a send off to the year in Ireland and Scotland before it was superseded by Burns’ new song.

Keeping with the sentimental tone of “The Parting Glass,” Burns’ “Auld Lang Syne” was also a meditation on “times long past” and drinking to old friends and memories and bringing in the new, and is traditionally sung at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

And surely you will buy your cup
And surely I’ll buy mine!
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet
For the sake of auld lang syne

The Age of “The Parting Glass”

Though “The Parting Glass” has been attributed to Scottish poet Sir Alex Boswell, a version of the song was documented even earlier in the Skene Manuscript, a collection of 117 musical notations compiled by John Skene in the early 1600s.

Another version of “The Parting Glass” also appeared in the Scottish anthologist David Herd’s 1769 book Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs, Heroic Ballads, etc. 

[RELATED: The Pogues Reunite for Moving Performance of the Band’s “The Parting Glass” During Shane MacGowan’s Funeral]

New Years

Though “The Parting Glass” is no longer the go-to sing-a-long on New Year’s Eve, it has remained popular within Ireland.

First popularized by the 20th century with a recording by of Irish folk group The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem in 1959, since then, numerous artists have recorded the song, including The Spinners, The Pogues, Sinéad O’Connor, The High Kings, The Dubliners, Hozier, and Ed Sheeran, among many others.

The melody of Bob Dylan’s “Restless Farewell” from his 1964 album The Times They Are a-Changin’ is also based on “The Parting Glass.”

Photo: FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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