Happy New Year!
It’s out with the old and in with the new! Most people will greet 2019 with a Champagne toast. But that was definitely not the way we did it when I was a girl. Back then New Year’s Eve was known as Watch Night in the African American community and most of us celebrated in church. We’d arrive at 9:30 p.m. and, without following a regular order of service, spontaneously praised God, sang hymns and spirituals, and shared testimonies of God’s grace. I remember songs like “I Thank You, Jesus”; “Somebody Prayed for Me”; and “God Will Take Care of You”. I remember men and women telling of the hunger, sickness, and sorrow endured during the passing year, yet gratefully stood to acknowledge God’s provisional mercy. “He brought me through it all,” they’d triumphantly testify, “and I’m still here, clothed and in my right mind!”
As the midnight hour grew nigh, everyone—the young, the elderly, even the infirmed, slipped to their knees. Bent over the pews in a unified posture of prayer, some folks hummed softly, some fervently whispered, while others wailed in anguished release, or perhaps, tears of joy. Only those who wept knew for sure. But one thing I do know is that even as a child, the songs and the faith of those nights brought comfort. Though I strayed many times throughout the ensuing years, I never missed attending Watch Night. The spirituality of the people and God’s mystical reassurance provided sustaining strength, always drawing me back into the fold.
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The origin of Watch Night is often debated. To learn why, click the link below.