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Many Christian churches hold Watch Night services in New Year's Eve.
Among African-American congregations, the tradition traces back at least to 1862. But Methodists began their Watch Night prayer services a century earlier.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, held Watch Night services starting in the 1700s. In some Methodist churches, as part of the service, church members write down those things for which they are grateful, as well as areas of their lives where they seek spiritual guidance. The papers are then burned, keeping the "resolutions" private between the individual and God.
Watch Night took on special meaning for African-Americans on New Years Eve in 1862. At midnight -- Jan. 1, 1863 -- the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves became law. So the Watch Night vigil took on special meaning as the slaves awaited the new year, and Watch Night retains special spiritual and historic importance for many African-Americans today.
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