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Happy Sylvester? Happy New Year? Turning Lemons Into Lemonade

Posted by Yussel's Place Judaic Art & Gifts/yusselsplace.com on

In Israel, why on secular new years do Israelis wish each other a Happy Sylvester and not Happy New Year? Where does Sylvester come from and who do Israelis wish each other a happy one?

Sylvester is the name of an anti-Semitic pope who served from 314-335CE. Some say he was one of the most anti-Semitic pope ever. Sylvester not only convinced Roman Emperor Constantine to prohibit Jews from living in Jerusalem, he arranged for the passing of anti-Semitic legislation. Pope Sylvester's Saint Day is December 31...the day of his death.

Well, since Israel is the Jewish state and Rosh Hashana is the new year. However, the tradition of Sylvester came to Israel with the wave of European immigration in 1948. European Jews wanted to retain celebrating the secular new year as they did in Europe. With Rosh Hashana designated on the Jewish calendar as New Years, the name Sylvester was adopted (talk about turning lemons into lemonade).

The above is according to reporter Ariel Cohen of the Jerusalem Post.