New Year's Eve: Der Heilige Silvester


12 Days of German Christmas: Day 7

12 Days of Germany Christmas: Silvester |

My Grandparents were from Germany and referred to New Year’s Eve as Silvester, which was highly confusing to me. I pictured the black and white Looney Tunes cat and couldn’t figure out what that had to do with my German grandparents and New Years. Hopefully I can clear that up both for the pre-adolescent me and present-day you.

Silvester was a pope in the fourth century and his saint day is on December 31, the day he died in 335 (they didn’t know his birthday). When the Gregorian calendar was set and the last day of the year fell on Silvster’s Day, the two were linked. Silvester is best known for his interactions with Roman emperor Constantine.

So what will you find going on in Germany on Silvester? Mostly fireworks! Be prepared, no matter the size of your town or village for a huge fireworks display. Berlin’s is the most famous, but the small farming village will surprise you too. Most of these will be conducted by your neighbors, who have no official training and probably have been have been drinking, but it’s a truly impressive display of pyrotechnics!

12 Days of German Christmas; Silvester |

The firework display of lights and sounds may have its origins as far back as the Teutonic times. The winter solstice was just a few days ago and it’s been pretty dark and gloomy. The Teutons feared that that the sun was perhaps never going to come back. In order to wake it up and keep it moving, they would light fires and make as much noise as possible. This now translates into ringing church bells, shouts in the night and banging pots and pans.

When you wake up tomorrow, even if it’s late because of all the commotion, Germany Ja will have an article about other traditions of Neujahr (New Year’s).

Note: Click on pictures for credits. 


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