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.

Here are churches in New York City still celebrating the watch night tradition.





Staten Island