Document Type


Publication Date



Today we pause to celebrate one of the most recently acquired federal holidays; yet, it has been in the making for 156 years. What created the first Watch Night Service was the same event that declared all African Americans free from bondage. That service was held on Dec. 31, 1862, just a few hours before midnight.

The purpose of this initial Watch Night Service was to pray, sing and fellowship, as people who were in bondage for so many years would gain their freedom on Jan. 1, 1863, by way of the Emancipation Proclamation. Today, there are African American congregations that still celebrate this tradition, and with fervor and thanksgiving.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.