Sylvester was a priest and a resident of Rome who was elected Pope between 335-314 CE.
For most of his life Sylvester served as the leader of an insignificant minority group and from the moment that he was appointed bishop he devoted most of his time to internal Christian affairs such as establishing the main principles of the Christian faith as first defined at the First Nicaea Conference which was the first ecumenical conference attended by Church leaders from all over the Mediterranean. The conference took place in Nicaea, Asia Minor and was initiated by Emperor Constantine.
Many myths have surrounded Pope Sylvester, some true and some simply stemming from a prolific imagination. Sylvester became well known mainly for his success in persuading the Roman emperor Constantine to convert to Christianity and to build Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul).
Sylvester's name was chosen to honour the start of the civil new year quite randomly. Each Christian saint is associated with a specific day in the year because of their date of birth, death or an important event that they were involved in.
Many days of the year are associated with more than one saint.
It would seem that Sylvester's name was chosen to be linked to December 31 (the last day of the year) for no particular reason.
The first day of the new year is dedicated to the circumcision of Jesus.
The name Sylvester (or Saint Sylvester) is used mostly in countries with a large Catholic majority (especially in Europe). However in countries with a large Protestant majority, such as the United States, the name Sylvester is relatively unknown.
The main reason given by those who oppose the celebration of New Years in Israel is the claim that Pope Sylvester, after who the festivities are named, was a strong persecutor of the Jewish people. However historic sources do not support these claims. There are no recorded cases of Pope Sylvester initiating the persecution or execution of Jews.
The Catholic Church in general is associated with the persecution of Jews but actually the persecution of Jews started in the Middle Ages without any connection to Sylvester.
As millions of people around the world including many Israeli's celebrate the end of the civil year (and without any connection to Saint Sylvester) we would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!