The 12 days of Christmas – St Sylvester

December 31, commonly known in the USA as New Year’s Eve, is the feast day of Saint Sylvester, also known as Pope Sylvester. His name is so part of the day that when New Years was moved from April under the Julian calendar to December/January with the Gregorian Calendar, that in many countries the name for New Year’s Eve is based upon his name Silvestris or some variant thereof.
Not much is known of Pope Sylvester, but he was Pope during a a major period for the church, such as the establishment of the Nicene Creed which is still recited throughout most of Christiandom to this day. Mythical claims of his life also exist, with the greatest myth being an argument between Sylvester and Constantine. yes, that Constantine, the one who turned the Roman Empire Christian and moved the capital from Rome to Constantinople. In an alleged story debating over Constantine being able to take a second wife, Sylvester disagreed and Constantine threatened him. Fearing for his life, he fled and hid in the woods. After some time Constantine became sick and was near death. He had a dream telling him that only Sylvester could heal him. So he sent word for Sylvester to return. Some servants eventually found Sylvester who asked him for aid. He baptizes them and they find themselves restored from their own illness. He goes to Constantine and baptizes him again and the illness is cured and Constantine is restored. Overcome with joy for his healing, he offers Sylvester his crown, but Sylvester refuses it. Instead Constantine declares him the highest of all bishops and the lord of Rome before he leaves to Constantinople. This story is repeated in two different sets of documents, both of which have been proven to be fake, which claim to give ultimate authority over Christiandom and Rome to the Bishop of Rome thus making him the Pope. Later, other miracles would be assigned to him as well, of all manner of things, but none of miracles were proven to have occurred while he was live.
I would mainly learn about Saint Sylvester through an interesting connection between Lucumi. Sylvester is associated with the unusual orisha Osain, the orisha of wild plants, healing and magic. Osain is said to live in the wilderness and he taught magic and other special abilities to other orishas. There are no dedicated priests to Osain, but he is called upon by all when making omiero, a special herbal bath that is made in a particular way using fresh herbs, and also whenever unbeatable magic is needed to handle a situation.
Another interesting aspect to Sylvester is the means of celebration for his day in Switzerland in the canton of Appenzell. In that canton, a group of people will make unusually costumes called Silvesterklaus for December 31. The most unusual and photographed are the Ugly or Pretty Ugly costumes because of their bizarre appearance made up of freshly collected plant matter, twigs, bark, branches, moss etc which is assembled to look like people, with the ugly being older and bizarre and ugly looking and the Pretty Ugly looking more human like and beautiful, but still bizarre. A third type, the Pretty one, which is made of heavily embroidered costumes and painted masks that look like people, showing scenes of pastoral life and work. In the 20th century a fourth has been added known as Jokers, who dress more like professional people, and whose costumes are lighter in weight and don’t have large and heavy headdresses, but simple caps or or kerchiefs. It is said that these groups of Silvesterklaus that go about the canton on December 31, wearing heavy bells or many small jingle bells are to chase away the old year and any of it’s misfortune, and help bring in good luck for next year. This tradition has been recreated in a town in Wisconsin where people now dress in similar costumes every December 31.

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