Out with the old and in with the new. On the night of Dec. 31, people around the world bring in the New Year in their own special way.
Many in the Black community bring in the New Year by going to a Watch Night service. This gathering can be traced back to “Freedom’s Eve,” Dec. 31, 1862, a night when the Black community waited in churches to hear the Emancipation Proclamation become law. The following day, Jan. 1, 1863, the slaves in all the confederate states were freed and the great news made people pray, shout and sing for joy as they thanked God for such a blessing.
The continuation of this tradition, now called a Watch Night service, has become so popular for many Black Christians that it has come to feel like part of the religion itself.
“I don’t feel right not being there. It’s my first step to starting the year off right,” said Christine Brown, a trustee chairperson of First Central Baptist Church, about her church’s Watch Night service.
From 10 p.m. to midnight, the Watch Night service is a night of shouting, clapping and receiving the word of God. It also includes a hymn sung by the church choir and a sermon given by the various pastors and preachers of the evening. It is also a time and place where the Black community can come to give thanks to God for allowing them to survive another year along with the many blessings they’ve received.
“It is not that I have to attend; I want to be there and worship in the house of the Lord. It is something that I desire,” said Ms. Hyde, a member of St. Philips Baptist Church.
On Dec. 31, different churches, including Wayside Baptist Church in Brooklyn and First Central Baptist Church and St. Philips Baptist Church, both in Staten Island, will be bringing in the New Year by holding Watch Night services.
As Pastor Cidde Hamatheithe of Wayside Baptist Church stated, the service is “conducted at the end of the year to thank God for what he has done for us and what he’s going to do for us in the New Year. What better way than to be in the house of the Lord at the stroke of midnight?”