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The History of Watch Night Service

watch nightMore than one hundred and fifty years have passed since the first Watch Night Service (also known as “Freedom’s Eve”) in the Black Church took place, bringing freedom and new lives for Black people in America.

On December, 31st 1982, Black slaves and free Blacks gathered in churches, private homes, and communities all across the United States. The reason: praying and waiting for the Emancipation Proclamation to officially become effective. This law, written by President Abraham Lincoln and approved by Congress in September of 1862, proclaimed the freedom of slaves in the ten states that were in rebellion at that time, giving freedom to 3.1 million slaves in the United States.


Today, the tradition of the Watch Night continues. The service usually begins anywhere from 7 to 10 p.m. (depending on the church) and ends at midnight when the New Year begins. One of the most common traditions during this service is that five minutes before midnight, men, women, and children kneel and hold hands while they pray to God from the present year into the new one.

church-service-41With the help of technology, some churches are taking advantage to “congregate” people all over the world. Broadcasting this service live seems a good option for those who can’t go to a church or are in a country where this service is not celebrated, or even for those that will be working at midnight. Live transmission schedules can be easily found on different search engines. Many churches (even some megachurches) have incorporated music and dance to their prayer during this celebration.

This will be the 151th anniversary of the Watch Night, and while some people celebrate, some others will dedicate the whole New Year’s Eve (or part of it) and will go to church to celebrate with praise and worship.

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Ivan Rodriguez

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