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Watch Night Service is rooted in our history!

Posted by Erosa Knowles on November 16, 2011 at 6:15 PM

WATCH NIGHT SERVICES

Many of you who live or grew up in Black communities in the United States have probably heard of "Watch Night Services," the gathering of the faithful in church on New Year's Eve.

The service usually begins anywhere from 7 p.m. To 10 p.m. And ends at midnight with the entrance of the New Year. Some folks come to church first, before going out to celebrate. For others, church is the only New Year's Eve event.. Like many others, I always assumed that Watch Night was a fairly standard Christian religious service -- made a bit more Afro centric because that's what happens when elements of Christianity become linked with the Black Church. Still, it seemed that predominately White Christian churches did not include Watch Night services on their calendars, but focused instead on Christmas Eve programs.

In fact, there were instances where clergy in mainline denominations wondered aloud about the propriety of linking religious services with a secular holiday like New Year's Eve.

However, there is a reason for the importance of New Year's Eve services in African American congregations.

The Watch Night Services in Black communities that we celebrate today can be traced back to gatherings on December 31, 1862, also known as "Freedom's Eve." On that night, Blacks came together in churches and private homes all across the nation, anxiously awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation actually had become law. Then, at the stroke of midnight, it was January 1, 1863, and all slaves in the Confederate States were declared legally free .

When the news was received, there were prayers, shouts and songs of joy as people fell to their knees and thanked God. Black folks have gathered in churches annually on New Year's Eve ever since, praising God for bringing us safely through another year.

It's been 145 years since that first Freedom's Eve and many of us were never taught the African American history of Watch Night, but tradition still brings us together at this time every year to celebrate

"how we got over."

PS- Pass this information on so we can educate more of our Family and Friends about our History!

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5 Comments

Reply Erosa Knowles
6:23 PM on November 16, 2011 
Now that I know this, it makes sitting in all those services growing up seem more reasonable. At the time, I was truly ticked off. *smiles*
Reply ecola
7:52 PM on November 16, 2011 
Hi Erosa

growing up as a pastor's kid,we only were allowed to go to CHURCH,SCHOOL AND THE LIBRARY.Therefore my love for the written word was formed and my need to know. Church for me and my family has always been a place to release all that bothers and derail lifes lessons that were taught by our forefather no matter what your color,background or faith. Bringing in the new year at church was just as important as hopping john and something green on NEW YEARS DAY. I only wish more people would spend time learning our past and passing it on to our children then they would know that OUR FATHER THAT IS IN HEAVEN no matter who you worship is not pain but LOVE AND PEACE,so when they meet pain they run to safety. Now let me get off my box and get my daughter to bed
Reply Ms. P
6:41 PM on November 19, 2011 
We spend every New Year's Eve in Church. My children are there, even when
they don't want to be. When you hear the singing and the Preached word, you
are just thankful to be there to see another year. My 22 year old son, lived in another city and had to work one New Year's Eve and said he wasn't going to
make it home. He surprised me and walked into Church when we were getting ready to sing, my faced showed my joy. It's wonderful to be together as a family in Church at times like that.
Reply Erosa Knowles
9:17 AM on December 1, 2011 
Amen and amen to that Ecola. History is important. I didn't understand the why's of watchnight, we just went. As a child you did as you were told or else. I don't regret the school of hard knocks I attended, I appreciate it and more.

ecola says...
Hi Erosa

growing up as a pastor's kid,we only were allowed to go to CHURCH,SCHOOL AND THE LIBRARY.Therefore my love for the written word was formed and my need to know. Church for me and my family has always been a place to release all that bothers and derail lifes lessons that were taught by our forefather no matter what your color,background or faith. Bringing in the new year at church was just as important as hopping john and something green on NEW YEARS DAY. I only wish more people would spend time learning our past and passing it on to our children then they would know that OUR FATHER THAT IS IN HEAVEN no matter who you worship is not pain but LOVE AND PEACE,so when they meet pain they run to safety. Now let me get off my box and get my daughter to bed
Reply Erosa Knowles
9:19 AM on December 1, 2011 
You're preaching to the choir, Ms. P. I know exactly what your'e talking about. Lots of great memories singing and eating serious food in thanksgiving afterward!! Great times and more to come.

Ms. P says...
We spend every New Year's Eve in Church. My children are there, even when
they don't want to be. When you hear the singing and the Preached word, you
are just thankful to be there to see another year. My 22 year old son, lived in another city and had to work one New Year's Eve and said he wasn't going to
make it home. He surprised me and walked into Church when we were getting ready to sing, my faced showed my joy. It's wonderful to be together as a family in Church at times like that.

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