Some News agencies reported that the Israeli Chief Rabbinate banned the celebration of New Years Eve.1 But why?
The celebration that, in German-speaking countries, is known as Sylvester, was named after Pope Sylvester (314–335 A.D.), who presided over the conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine and reigned during the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.). His Saint’s Day is the day he was buried, the 31st of December. But how does that relate to New Years Eve? Was that something bad? Well, this is what Sylvester also did:1, 2
- He prohibited Jews from living in Jerusalem;
- He instituted a host of viciously anti-Jewish requirements into Roman Christianity.
As a result, New Year’s Day became a day of persecution for European Jews:
Synagogue and book burnings, public tortures, and murder. […] For Eastern European Jews, January 1st is remembered as a day of pogroms.1
This evening was, once the calendar settled on December 25th as Christmas, calculated to be the night preceding the circumcision of the child born in the “little town of Bethlehem”, therefore a call for the local peasants to engage in drinking, making merry and killing Jews.2
- Throughout the Middle Ages, pogroms and violent acts were usually done against jews on the 1st of January.
- In 1577, Pope Gregory XIII decreed that all Roman Jews, under pain of death, must listen to the compulsory Catholic conversion sermon given in Rome’s synagogues after Friday night services.
- In 1578, Gregory signed into law a tax forcing Jews to pay for the support of a “House of Conversion” to convert Jews to Christianity.
- In 1581, Gregory ordered his troops to confiscate all sacred literature from the Roman Jewish community. Thousands of Jews were murdered in the campaign.
Is a day of latent anti-semitism to be celebrated, or the Saint’s Day of a Roman Pope who was that cruel? Or is it simply a new date in the calendar, just like any other day?
1 Israel today http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/25745/Default.aspx (checked on 31.12.2014)
2 Arutz Sheva http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/9234 (checked on 31.12.2014)