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​Happy New Year, Happy Novy God, or Happy Sylvester!

Posted by Janice Kaye on 1st Jan 2023

In Israel, where I live, when people wish you a Happy New Year, they usually mean Rosh Hashana – the Jewish New Year which is considered to be one of the most important days of the Israeli calendar. Today, Jan 1st is a regular workday – I am spending it finishing my stocktaking that I should have finished by yesterday. But you will find more and more Israeli’s taking the day off after partying last night and I received plenty of messages from friends and acquaintances wishing me a Happy New Year.

To distinguish it from the Jewish Year, some people make a point of wishing you a Happy Secular New Year, and others refer to it as Sylvester or Noy God.

Over the years, more and more Israelis celebrate the secular New Year too. This is partly because of the influence of the Russians who have immigrated to Israel, mainly since the early 1990’s, who brought with them the tradition of celebrating Novigod on New Year’s Eve. Some customs have been adapted for Israeli environs, like the use of palm trees for the New Year tree and starting celebrations using the Moscow time zone. Novy God is also considered a gift-giving holiday with some similarities to Christmas (albeit in a secular form), especially decorated trees and a figure who delivers presents to children – in this case “Grandfather Frost' with help from his granddaughter 'the Snow Maiden')”

Who was Sylvester and how did New Year’s Eve celebrations come to be named after him? Sylvester refers to Pope Sylvester I who lived from 285 – 335 CE. He was pope during the reign of Constantine and was instrumental in the expanse of Christianity. According to legend Pope Sylvester’s died write in the final moments of the year 335 CE. Because of his date of death and because Christianity had a type of new beginning under his leadership, December 31, New Year’s Eve was chosen as his Saint Day. As a result various countries refer to New Year’s Eve as St. Sylvester’s Day or simply Sylvester and Eastern Europe Jewish immigrants to Israel, brought this term with them.


  • #Happy New Year

  •  #New Year 2023

  •  #Novy God

  •  #Sylvester