the New Year.
Watch Night is important to African Americans for two reasons.
The first reason relates to 31st December 1862, also known as Freedom's Eve, when black people were waiting in churches. On 1st January 1863, Andrew Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and all slaves were legally free. When the Proclamation was confirmed, people were thanking God in the churches.
The second reason for Watch Night relates to the era before 1862. The practice was for slave owners to tally up their business account on the first day of each new year. They then paid their debts, and this often involved selling land, furniture and slaves to pay their debts. This resulted in family and friends being separated, and 31st December was often the last opportunity for slaves and free Africans to be together with loved ones.