Origins of Watch Night Service!
Black Methodists and Baptists celebrate Watch Night, December 31, 1862 the Emancipation Proclamation would go into effect at midnight. The celebration continues in African American churches today, striking a more joyous note than prior repentance Watch Nights.
The first Watch Night was Dec. 31, 1862, as abolitionists and others waited for word — via telegraph, newspaper or word of mouth — that the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued.
"A lot of it, at least the initial Watch Night, was really many of the free black community," says Lonnie Bunch, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Yet for a people largely held in bondage, freedom is a powerful idea — and that's what the Watch Night tradition embodies.