Hello, Crafty People! Christmas ia over, Kwanzaa is in full swing and we have the New Year awaiting us. Ever since I was a kid I remember going to church on New Year for the Watchnight service. At the time I thought everyone did it. A service of prayer to bring in the New Year. It wasn’t until I started attending collage that I found out otherwise.
What is Watchnight Service?
Watchnight is New Year’s Eve, it is also commonly referred to as Freedom’s Eve. On Watchnight of every year Black Americans go to church for a special service to commemorate the Old Year and bring in the New Year. The service is not always a traditional Sunday Service but congregants dress in Sunday dress attire or better. In the service, it’s safe to say that there will be a sermon and other festive activities like a prayer dance or choir selection.
Why do we celebrate Watchnight?
Slavery. Watchnight is a direct connection to the history of Black Americans as slaves when we were imported to the United States. The institution of chattel slavery in America is older than this country and on January 1, 1863 by order of the Emancipation Proclamation, slavery would ‘legally’ end for three-quarters of the enslaved people in the not so United States. On December 31, 1862, slaves all around the country waited until midnight for freedom. And on New Year’s Day they would have it, kind of. It wouldn’t be until June 19, 1865 (the now holiday Juneteeth) that slavery would end in all states and territories of the United States. Then the formerly enslaved would embark on a long road to equal rights through Reconstruction, Jim Crow and segregation.
A Lasting Tradition
To this day, the tradition of Watchnight is still celebrated by Black Americans across the nation. It is a time to review the year that has passed, the history of how we got to today and a hope for the future that is to come.