Thursday, February 5, 2015
First Watch Night Service - Wed, 12/31/1862
I had never heard of First Watch Night Service until a few years ago. It is defined as a late-night Chrisitian church service held on New Year's Eve and ends at midnight. According to Wikipedia, the Watchnight service "provides the opportunity for Chrisitians to review the year that has passed and make confession, and then prepare for the year ahead by praying and resolving." The reason that I am not of aware of the so-called First Watch Night Service is, I am Catholic and this ceremony is known as Midnight Mass. I have never attended a Midnight Mass although older members of my family have participated.
The Watch Night Service, also known as Freedom Eve, is significant in the African American community.It can be traced back to New Year's eve in 1862, where slaves and free blacks gathered in churches and homes to await the news that the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln had become law. On January 1, 1863 at the stroke of midnight, all slaves in the Confederate states were declared legally free.When the slaves and free blacks learned of their freedom, they prayed, shouted, sang, and thanked God.
The First Watch Night Service has been celebrated every NewYear's eve since December 31, 1862. African Americans gather in churches to thank God for living through another year and to celebrate "how we got over."
Source: African American Registry