The Watch Night service can be traced back to gatherings also known as “Freedom’s Eve.” On that night, Black slaves and free Blacks came together in churches and private homes across the nation awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation actually had become law. At the stroke of midnight, it was Jan. 1, 1863, all slaves in the Confederate states were declared legally free. When the news was received, there were prayers, shouts and songs of joy as many people fell to their knees and thanked God.
Blacks have gathered in churches annually on New Year’s Eve ever since, praising God for bringing us safely through another year. It’s been over a century since the first Freedom’s Eve and tradition still brings us together at this time every year to celebrate “how we got over.” This celebration takes many descendants of slaves into a new year with praise and worship.
Considering where we are in our journey, in this country and throughout the diaspora, giving God praise for our blessings and the strength to carry on is something we should do throughout the year.