The 31st December Vigil history

During the time in which slaves were legally owned, every 1st of January, slaves were put out for rent or auctioned to new owners. January 1st was generally referred to as “hiring day”. If you are Black, you spend the last day of the year (31st December) in fear, wondering who your next slave Master will be, and also how there will be a split in the families of slaves (read ‘Blacks’)….will usually result to each member of the family going to another slave Master and might never be seen again.
A lot happened during the era in which Africans were used as slaves. I don’t know if African Americans will ever heal completely from it.
The unprecedented incident happened on the 22nd of September 1862 when President Abraham Lincoln issued the executive order that declared enslaved people in the rebelling Confederate states legally free.
The declaration was to take effect by 12:00AM of January 1863. Blacks stayed awake on the 31st of December in churches and homes as they watched and waited for the time to clock midnight which will usher in a new dawn of freedom. This is also why the 31st night is called “watched night” or “Freedom Eve”. It was such a big deal for the Blacks because instead of having the usual fear every 31st December, it became a night of hope and freedom. This is how the 31st night was popularized by the then-rising Protestant/Pentecostal churches in the US.
Sure enough, prior to that, history had patches of 31st night celebrations, especially from Methodist church, but the full-blown celebration or vigil of 31st night as we know it today started in 1862 – the night before the proclamation of emancipation by President Abraham Lincoln.

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