St. Sylvester’s Day: December 31
St. Sylvester’s Day is a public holiday in San Marino.
December 31 is set aside to commemorate Saint Sylvester in San Marino. As with many other countries, St. Sylvester’s Day in San Marino blends the tradition of the end-of-year celebration with the memory of the Saint.
History of St. Sylvester’s Day in San Marino
St. Sylvester’s date of birth is unknown, but we do know that he died on December 31st, 335. He was the pope during the persecutions of Diocletian, the Roman emperor that promoted the last and most severe persecutions of Christians in the Roman Empire. But, in 312, the new Emperor Constantine signed a decree in which he legalized Christianity and ended Roman persecution. Later in 314, he signed another decree that made Christianity officially encouraged through the state-run Church of the Roman Empire.
St. Sylvester was the pope that observed the transition from early Christianity to the Roman Catholic Church. In 1582, well after Sylvester’s death, the introduction of the Gregorian calendar moved the last day of the year from the 24 to the 31 of December. This in effect gave St. Sylvester’s Day added significance, creating a blending of customs and traditions with his feast.
San Marino’s St. Sylvester’s Day Traditions, Customs and Activities
The feast of Saint Sylvester is the forerunner to the New Year celebrations. Nowadays the religious significance of the day has faded somewhat, replaced by celebrations of eating and drinking, parties, and fireworks displays, all things that are at the heart of modern Western New Year celebrations.
In San Marino, tradition isn’t what it used to be, and St. Sylvester’s Day is mostly celebrated beyond the religious boundaries of the Saint’s memory, and it is now a more modern New Year celebration of the last night of the year.