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presents its second annual


JOIN US AT 7:00 PM ON DEC. 31, 2009

  • Did you know that Watch Night/Freedom’s Eve is spiritual, not religious?
  • Did you know that Watch Night/Freedom’s Eve is cultural, not congregational?
  • Did you know that Watch Night/Freedom’s Eve for whites meant “watching” for the coming of their god but for Blacks it meant “watching” for the coming of their freedom?
  • Did you know that Watch Night/Freedom’s Eve began at 7:00 pm for our enslaved ancestors on Dec. 31, 1862?

Watch Night/Freedom’s Eve for our enslaved ancestors began on December 31, 1862 in connection with Abraham Lincoln’s January 1, 1863 (so-called) Emancipation Proclamation.

But the original Watch Night (which is distinguished from Freedom’s Eve) was actually created in 1733 by the Moravians, who were a white European Protestant Christian denomination in present day Czech Republic (in what was then called Moravia). They held their first Watch Night service at the palace of Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf in nearby Hernhut, Germany.

About 40 years later in 1770, Watch Night took on a slightly different form — called Covenant Renewal Services — when it was brought to America by John Wesley, an Anglican clergyman who founded the Methodist Church, which was a revival and Protestant movement within the Church of England and which used a “methodical” approach to Christian living. They initially held their Watch Night services every month and during every full moon. These services were held at Old St. George’s Methodist Church right here in Philadelphia at 235 North 4th Street.

When these white European Moravians and these white American Methodists held their separate services on December 31, they did so in order to “watch over and meditate on” their past to determine if they would be ready for the possible coming of their god in the new year.

On the other hand, when our enslaved African ancestors held their services on December 31, 1862, they did so because they knew about Abraham Lincoln’s (so-called) Emancipation Proclamation, which had been first announced on September 22, 1862 but was to go into effect on January 1, 1863.

The key factor that distinguishes these white Watch Nights, meaning the 1733 white European version and the 1770 white American version, from the 1862 Black version is that the Black version was also called Freedom’s Eve. In other words, Watch Night for whites meant “watching” for the coming of their god, but Watch Night/Freedom’s Eve for Blacks meant “watching” for the coming of their freedom!

They began to gather at 7:00 p.m. to await their freedom. In their honor, we’re gathering at 7:00 p.m. They did it on December 31. In their honor, we’re doing it on December 31.