Watch Night is a holiday that’s observed on December 31st to allow Christians to review the year that’s getting ready to pass, confess their sins, and offer prayers for the New Year. This is a holiday that goes all the way back to Biblical times and is observed by millions of Christians around the world. The services on this holiday can vary from Watch Night masses to Vespers services or Covenant Renewal services. For many Christians, the celebration of this holiday is preferable to the crass commercialization of the Christmas holidays and the drunken excesses of New Year’s Eve.
The History Of Watch Night
Although many people believe that Watch Night began with a small Christian denomination called the Moravians, the practice of having services on the first day of the first month actually goes back to the Exodus from Egypt. This practice continued throughout the Middle Ages and continues on in its modern form today.
In 1862, Watch Night gained special significance when U.S President Abraham Lincoln issued his Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862. This resolution wouldn’t go into effect until January 1, 1863, so there were plenty of Watch Night services held on New Year’s Eve by African-American slaves.
Observing Watch Night
Watch Night observations are as varied as the churches and the places where they are held. In many Baptist churches, services are held on New Year’s Eve with a focus on renewed consecration of their faith. In Presbyterian Churches, services are also held and these services include testimonies by congregants as to how God blessed them over the past year and the singing of hymns.
In many churches, Watch Night begins sometime between 6 pm and 10 pm and usually ends sometime around midnight. While many people use this holiday as an alternative to New Year Eve debauchery, other congregants might attend New Year’s Eve parties after they have finished with services.