Happy New Year, my friends! Watch Night is an African American Lowcountry tradition, celebrating the 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation this year.
Watch Night in Charleston South Carolina , click this link to read a beautifully written piece by Harriet McLeod.
Wikipedia says that “A watchnight service is a late-night Christian church service. In many different Christian traditions, a watchnight service is held late on New Year’s Eve, and ends after midnight. This provides the opportunity for Christians to review the year that has passed and make confession, and then prepare for the year ahead by praying and resolving. The services often include singing, praying, exhorting, and preaching.”
The founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, originated watch night services in 1740, sometimes calling them Covenant Renewal Services.The services provided Methodist Christians with a godly alternative to times of drunken revelry, such as Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve Today, a Methodist watchnight service includes singing, spontaneous prayers and testimonials, as well as scripture readings; the liturgy for this service is found in The United Methodist Book of Worship.
In the Church of Scotland, and Presbyterianism in the U.S., the Watchnight service is a popular ceremony marking the beginning of Christmas Day. In Anglican or Roman Catholic churches, this ceremony is often replicated in the form of a Midnight Mass or Eucharist.
Watchnight service has added significance and history in the African-American community in the United States, since many slaves were said to have gathered in churches on New Year’s Eve, in 1862, to await news and confirmation of the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln, on January 1, 1863.