Several area churches will hold late night services on New Year’s Eve, sometimes referred to as “Watch Night” services.

The Watch Night service has been a part of many Christian traditions for centuries and has been an especially prominent among black churches in the United States for more than 150 years. According to the African American Civil War Memorial, on Dec. 31, 1862. the day before the Emancipation Proclamation was set to go into effect, slaves in the North and South waited for their freedom to become national law.

That service has since evolved to encompass a broader meaning.

“It’s a time to thank God for the blessing of that year and to pray for blessings for the new year,” said Joe Hill, one of the organizers of Washington Chapel Missionary Baptist Church’s Watch Night service.

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