13 Tevet 5778
New Years Eve (Sylvester) in Israel
New Years Eve in Israel has become bigger and bigger in recent years, and whilst not officially celebrated, there are now hundreds of New Years Eve parties across Israel, as well as many other special events, which cater to all musical, cultural, and social tastes. New Years in Israel is known as Sylvester, and parties are known as Sylvester parties. From the bustling Sylvester parties in Tel Aviv’s many nightclubs to special concerts and local events, if you want to see in the New Year in Israel, you will find a celebration for you.
... The spread of Western culture into Israel has brought with it the celebration of New Years so depending on where you are in the country depends on how much is going on. This spread has not been warmly received by everyone, which accounts for why, in Jerusalem, for instance, there is little celebration, but, if you know where to look, there are some great events.
...In recent years, New Years or Sylvester has become incredibly big in Tel Aviv, and is a big night for the city’s restaurants and nightclubs. Many restaurants will become booked up (so make sure to book) and special parties will take place to bring in the next year. As with anything, there is a huge range of parties catering for different groups and musical tastes so check out specific clubs before the evening to see which is your favorite.
Why Is It Called "Sylvester"?
The night of the Holy Sylvester, the last night of the year, has always been the night of fun. Every year Berlin hosts one of the largest New Year’s Eve celebrations in all of Europe, attended by over a million people. The focal point is the Brandenburg Gate, where midnight fireworks are centered. Germans toast the New Year with a glass of Sekt (German sparkling wine) or champagne.
The saint of this day, Pope Sylvester I, according to legend is the man who healed from leprosy and baptized the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great.
Sylvester was a Roman, the son of Rufinus. He was ordained a priest by Marcellinus. Chosen Pope in 314, he continued the work of organizing the peacetime Church so well begun by St. Miltiades. Sylvester saw the building of famous churches, notably the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. John Lateran, built near the former imperial palace of that name. It is quite probable too that the first martyrology or list of Roman martyrs was drawn up in his reign. St. Sylvester died in 335. He was buried in a church which he himself had built over the Catacomb of Priscilla on the Via Salaria. His feast is kept on December 31.
In many of the German-speaking areas the change of the year is celebrated noisily and merrily. Guests are invited, and groups attend a “Sylvester Ball.” There is eating, drinking, dancing and singing.
CELEBRATING AN ANTI-SEMITIC POPE ON SYLVESTER
Israeli New Years, most commonly known as Sylvester, is named after an anti-Semitic pope. Not exactly what you’d expect in a Jewish state.
It's origins come from Pope Sylvester, whose saint's day falls on December 31st, what is now known as New Years Eve. He served as pope from 314-335 CE, and while very little is known about his actual life, it is known that he oversaw both the First Council of Nicea as well as Roman Emperor Constantine's conversion to Christianity.
Pope Sylvester convinced Constantine to prohibit Jews from living in Jerusalem, the year before the Council of Nicea convened, and during the council, the Pope arranged for the passing of various anti-Semitic legislation. Some say he is one of the most anti-Semitic Popes of all time.
Numerous European countries, such as Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland, and Slovenia, refer to New Years as Sylvester. But why Israel?
The tradition of Sylvester came to Israel along with the mass wave of European immigration around the time that Israel became a state. Of course, the Jewish calendar already had a “New Years,” Rosh Hashanah, so there is not much need for a secular replacement. So the name “Sylvester” stuck.
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What's wrong with Jewish people celebrating New Year's Eve?