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Alternative forms[edit]


watch +‎ night.



watchnight (plural watchnights)

  1. (Christianity, historical) A monthly or quarterly religious service participated in by Methodists which extended past midnight.
    • 1779, John Wesley, Minutes of Several Conversations, between the Rev. John Wesley, A.M. and the Preachers in Connection with Him. Containing the Form of Discipline Established Among the Preachers and People in the Methodist Societies, London: Printed for G[eorge] Whit[e]field, City-Road, and sold at all the Methodist preaching-houses, in town and country, OCLC 5230619, pages 51–52:
      The ſpiritual concerns, ſhall be managed by the preachers; who have ever appointed leaders, choſen ſtewards, and admitted members into, and expelled them, from the ſociety, conſulting their brethren the leaders and ſtewards, according to the rules before mentioned. The preachers alſo as hitherto, are to appoint love-feaſts, and watch-nights, and to vary the time and places of preaching, claſs-meeting, &c.
    • 1861 December, John Reacher, “The End of the Year, and its Watchnight”, in The Christian Miscellany, and Family Visiter. For the Year 1861, volume VII, 2nd series, London: Published by John Mason, 27, City-Road; sold at 66, Paternoster-Row, OCLC 633552483, page 370:
      We offer no apology for the Methodist watchnight service. It needs none. In the first days of Methodism, indeed, this service was misrepresented and reviled by those who sought occasion against us; [] The Wesleyan watchnight dates from the earliest times of the United Societies. We have this account of its origin by [William] Myles, in his "Chronological History:"—"The custom was begun at Kingswood by the colliers there, who, before their conversion, used to spend every Saturday-night at the ale-house. After they were taught better, they spent that night in prayer. Mr. [John] Wesley, hearing of it, ordered it first to be once a month, at the full of the moon; then once a quarter, and recommended it to all his Societies."
    • 1976, Frank Baker, From Wesley to Asbury: Studies in Early American Methodism, Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, ISBN 978-0-8223-0359-6:
      [Joseph] Pilmore conducted the first watchnight in Virginia, lasting from 8:00 p.m. until midnight, on Sunday, April 25, 1773. Like the love-feast, the watchnight often formed one of the more public features of the quarterly meetings []
    • 1983, R. W. Gribben, “Methodism”, in Gordon S. Wakefield, editor, The SCM Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, SCM Press, ISBN 978-0-334-02955-7, page 266:
      Watchnights were further times of prayer and witness, late into the night, and modelled by Wesley on the vigils of feasts in the primitive church.
    • 2010, John J. Dunphy, From Christmas to Twelfth Night in Southern Illinois, Charleston, S.C.: The History Press, ISBN 978-1-59629-913-9, page 112:
      The practice actually began with the Moravians, a small Christian denomination, in Europe. Scholars believe that the first Watch Night service was held in 1733 on the estate of a German count. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, incorporated the Watch Night service into his denomination, where it took root. These early Watch Night services were not New Year's Eve events, however. They were held once a month and on full moons. The first Watch Night service in the United States was held in 1770 at Old St. George's Church in Philadelphia.
  2. (Christianity) A religious service involving a review of the year passed and preparation for the year ahead participated in by Methodists and members of other Christian denominations which starts late on New Year's Eve and ends after midnight on New Year's Day; hence, the night that begins on December 31 and ends on January 1.
    • 1861, “Watch-night in the Channel”, in The Sunday at Home: A Family Magazine for Sabbath Reading, London: The Religious Tract Society, OCLC 1587811, page 260:
      And there is one night in the year I have always observed – the good old Methodist vigil called Watch-night, popularly described as "seeing the old year out and the new year in." [] I have only been a Methodist once a year; and peculiar, accordingly, have my watch-night emotions been. There stands the old portico in —— street; can it be a year since I ascended those steps? These are the aisles, the columns, the pulpit, the recess with its inscriptions, the Christmas evergreens yet fresh over the Communion Table – silent preachers all, that seem to say: "You and I are a year older, friend; but we have seen more watch-nights than you, and are likely to see more yet; []["]
    • 1872, L[uke] Tyerman, The Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley, M.A., Founder of the Methodists. [...] In Three Volumes, volume I, New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers, OCLC 640072647, page 333:
      This was the first watchnight meeting among the Methodists. The people met at half-past eight; the house was filled from end to end; and "we concluded the year," says [John] Wesley, "wrestling with God in prayer, and praising Him for the wonderful work which He had already wrought upon the earth."
    • [1900], Wesleyan Methodist Twentieth Century Celebration, London; Aylesbury: Hazell, Watson and Viney, OCLC 11510571, cover title:
      Wesleyan Methodist Twentieth Century Celebration: Order of Watchnight Service to be Held in Every Wesleyan-Methodist Place of Worship in Great Britain on the Night of Monday, 31st December, 1900, Being the Last Night of the Nineteenth Century
    • 1901 January 1, “Watch Night Services”, in The New York Times, page 2:
      The first watch night services ever held in Grace Protestant Episcopal Church were but poorly attended, []
    • 1999, R. Mark Liebenow, And Everyone Shall Praise: Resources for Multicultural Worship, Cleveland, Oh.: United Church Press, ISBN 978-0-8298-1318-0, page 77:
      Watchnight. December 31 This is a midnight service that summarizes the past year. In recent centuries, the Moravians and early Methodists have celebrated it as a vigil service focusing on newness, the spiritual life, and covenants.
  3. A religious or spiritual vigil.
    • 1983, Belizean Studies, Belize City: Belize Institute of Social Research and Action, OCLC 3491847, page 27:
      To spend a whole night, from sunset to sunrise, in vigil, is locally reckoned as two "watchnights" (in Kekchi, yo'lec). On occasion when one "watchnight" is deemed sufficient, people go home to sleep after midnight. When a series of 13 "watchnights" are required, a full night vigil will normally only be observed for the final twelfth night.
    • 1986, Jon Schackt, One God, Two Temples: Schismatic Process in a Kekchi Village [Occasional Papers (Institutt for sosialantropologi, Universitetet i Oslo); 13], Oslo, Norway: Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo, OCLC 19945056, page 73:
      Private vigils [among the Kekchi or Q'eqchi' people] may also be undertaken for specific purposes including curing and sorcery. Whether the purpose be good or evil, 13 "watchnights" are reckoned as the ideal number to observe. That is also the number of "watchnights" an individual or whole community will observe in preparation for a pilgrimage.
  4. (West Africa) A night watchman.
    • 1958, Isobel Ryan, Black Man's Palaver, London: Jonathan Cape, OCLC 460038569, page 62:
      Next morning a flustered watchnight waited for Bill. 'What is this t'ing?' he indignantly demanded. 'In the night I sit watching, then Madam come and pour a bucket of water on me. Next a t'ief-man come. I fight him but he too strong and he take my bicycle ... [][']
    • 1969, Niyi Oniororo, Persevere Dear Brother, 2nd edition, Ibadan, Nigeria: Printed at Ayo-olu Finery Press, OCLC 124699, page 39:
      He gave the watchnight a big sum of money to tell the court that he saw Ayo carrying those drugs into his room. He also induced the chemist to give evidence against Ayo that he was not buying those drugs for patients.
    • 2011, Maurice Harvey, Into the Great Unknown: Adventures in Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia, Bloomington, Ill.: iUniverse, ISBN 978-1-4620-6300-0, page 66:
      At sundown the night watchman came on duty. Called a ‘watchnight’ in local English, this old fellow was armed with a substantial wooden staff. At intervals throughout the night be would pound the staff on the concrete path to assure everyone that he was awake. Other watchnights along the street would pound their sticks in answer. This hourly commotion was supposed to be reassuring, not disturbing. [] Many are the stories that people told of their watchnights.


Related terms[edit]

  • New Year's Eve (not identical to watchnight – New Year's Eve is the entire day before New Year's Day, whereas watch night is the night that begins at sundown on New Year's Eve and ends with sunrise on New Year's Day)