Join us this Freedom’s Eve.  This New Year’s Eve, the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission invites you to come together with members of Gullah Geechee communities in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida to participate in a celebration that is over 155 years old: the Watch Night service commemorating the date of January 1, 1863 when enslaved people in the Low Country, the Sea Islands and throughout the United States emerged from bondage as a result of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

What Happens on Freedom’s Eve? The Watch Night services will generally begin late in the evening on December 31, 2018. What you will experience in the hours leading up to midnight will vary based on custom and practice in each Gullah Geechee community but tradition holds that these services usually involve music, the traditional liturgy and contemplation of what has passed followed by reconciliation and resolutions for the coming year.

The Watchmen, elders in the community, will signal when midnight is near. At that time, the community will kneel in prayer to welcome the New Year – and collectively reflect on how on January 1, 1863 the New Year also meant a long-hoped for freedom for millions of African-Americans in the United States. Gullah Geechee people, who have been a part of or have long memories of these traditional celebrations within their communities over the years, will educate others about the traditions, history and significance of what occurred on these days.  

How do I Join the Celebration? We will shortly announce plans for a Watch Night service and Emancipation Proclamation celebration to be jointly hosted by the Commission and other institutions in Charleston on the afternoon of December 31, 2018.  In addition, over 50 more churches and community institutions across the Corridor and the nation are observing a Watch Night & Emancipation Proclamation celebration this year. Contact our office by telephone at 843.818.4587 or e-mail us for locations and more information.  We thank you for helping us to preserve and sustain this cherished, Gullah Geechee tradition.