Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

December 30, 2013

Watch Night recalls a free New Year

VALDOSTA — As many people gather Tuesday night to toast the New Year, several local African-American churches will open their doors to pray in the New Year.

For these churches, New Year’s Eve is often called “Watch Night,” a traditional service for many black churches of the South. Watch Night is believed to have descended from two African-American traditions.

The most common root of its origin is linked to Dec. 31, 1862, as black churches waited for word of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves, to go into effect on Jan. 1, 1863. In many cases, black congregations joined by white abolitionists throughout both the North and South waited well into New Year’s Day 1863 for word that Lincoln had signed the Proclamation into law.

Joy and celebration greeted Lincoln’s words in many African-American churches. “I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States,” the Proclamation read, “and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be, free.”

African-American congregations, especially those in the South, already had a tradition of gathering on New Year’s Eve prior to the Emancipation Proclamation. They often met on New Year’s Eve because New Year’s Day for many black people in the slave-era South was known as “Heartbreak Day,” according to Valdosta State University history professor Dr. David Williams in his book, “A People’s History of the Civil War.”

New Year’s Day was often the day when slaveholders sold slaves, when families, parents and children, husbands and wives, were separated. Slaves gathered on New Year’s Eve because that may be the last time many families had the opportunity to be together.

In the decades since slavery and the Emancipation Proclamation, Watch Night has evolved into an evening that honors the past, celebrates family fellowship, and takes an opportunity to re-dedicate people’s lives to Christ.

Here is a list of Watch Night services sent to The Times:

• Watch Night Service, 10 p.m. Tuesday, New Life Ministries, 5651 Inner Perimeter Road, Valdosta.

• Watch Night Service, 9 p.m. Tuesday, You’re Good Enough For Jesus Ministries, 620 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Valdosta.

• Watch Night Services, 10 p.m.-midnight Tuesday, Second Oak Baptist Church. Breakfast will be served after services.

— Watch Night Services, 10 p.m. Tuesday, Friendship Freewill I.B.C., Refreshments served after services.

— Watch Night Service, 10 p.m. Tuesday, Mount Hope Missionary Baptist Church, Quitman. Guest Church: Graham Chapel CME.

Text Only
Local News
  • doug henderson.jpg Memorial tourney returns

    The Doug Henderson III Memorial Golf Tournament has raised thousands of dollars for scholarship funds and to help organizations throughout the region.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • 041914-WA-Egghunt021.jpg Park puts wild spin on Easter tradition

    Adventurous egg hunters braved overcast skies and a persistent drizzle to search for hidden prizes Saturday during Wild Adventure’s first Ostrich Egg Hunt.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • FallenTree003.JPG More spills reported

    City of Valdosta employees have spent the weekend responding to spills caused by several inches of rain that have again drenched the city during the past few days.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Underwater Easter_Rich copy.jpg Stories behind ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’

    Christ comes from the Greek word, “Christos,” meaning “the anointed one.”

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140418_valwood001.jpg Valwood students register to vote

    Valwood teaches its students about the importance of voting. Each year, the school has encouraged eligible seniors to register to vote and participate in local elections.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • wadebrandon14.jpg Police still seeking missing mother, son

    Though their assignments have changed during the past dozen years, Valdosta Police Capt. Bobbi McGraw and Sgt. Chris Crews continue working the case of a missing mother and her son.

    April 19, 2014 3 Photos

  • 041814-TreeDownonRobinHood.jpg Minor flooding expected

    Minor flooding of the Withlacoochee River is expected this weekend thanks to the day-long rains across South Georgia Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 041814-TreeDownonRobinHood.jpg Wastewater hazards assessed

    During heavy rain events, five to 15 manholes throughout the city are at risk of overflowing into local waterways, according to the City of Valdosta.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140418-VSU_HSBA003.jpg Valdosta State cuts ribbon for health, business building

    Eighteen months after breaking ground on the project, Valdosta State University held the official ribbon cutting Friday for its Health Sciences and Business Administration Building.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140417-Rail_Plan-001.jpg State Transportation seeks public input on rail plan

    The Georgia Department of Transportation held public meetings across the state this week to discuss its 2014 Georgia State Rail Plan.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

Top News

Given the amount of rain recently, what's your favorite “rain” song?

Singing in the Rain
Purple Rain
Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
November Rain
Rainy Night in Georgia
     View Results