On Dec. 31, as many people ring in the new year with dancing, drinks and song, others will gather in churches to celebrate a 154-year tradition known as Watch Night.

Watch Night in the African-American community dates back to Dec. 31, 1862, when people watched for Abraham Lincoln to deliver the Emancipation Proclamation.

More than a century later, people of all races gather on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the end of one year and pray for the beginning of the next.

“We do it basically to usher in the new year with a dedication in relation with the Lord and to bring the new year with friends, family and fellow constituents of faith,” Pastor Demethrius Boyd, of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Mineola, said.

Boyd, who has pastored the church for 10 years, said the church started celebrating the occasion before he came.

He said one of the primary reasons to celebrate the event is to recognize and be grateful for the past year, while at the same time look with hope to the future.

The event is scheduled to start at 10:30 p.m. with worship and praise at the church, 304 S. Stone St., in Mineola. This will be followed by a time of testimony, communion, a brief word of encouragement and the countdown to the new year.

In Lindale, the East Texas House of Prayer, located at 2401 Main St. (U.S. Highway 69) is scheduled to have a Watch Night Service from 8 p.m. to 12:01 a.m. The public is welcome to attend both events.

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