December 31st is New Year’s Eve, as we all know. In Germany, the eve of a new year falls on St. Sylvester’s Day and is thus known as Silvester. I’ve been listening to SWR 4 at work for a few weeks to avoid losing my mind in the stillness. And I have been quite confused. So I asked my pen pal. And all I got was Silvester is New Years Eve.
So time to head to the wiki cupboard and see what is on the shelf. As she is not particularly religious I see why I didn’t get the answer I was looking for. St. Sylvester was ordained a priest early in Christendom by Pope Melchiades and was around for Constantine’s conquest of most of the known world. Two years after Constantine’s success, Sylvester became Pope and oversaw the Council of Nicea through his representatives to the conclave. He died on December 31st in the year 335. Not much is known about this Pope. Most of what is written was written centuries after his death and seem to be a fiction, revolving around his relationship to Constantine and his conversion. It would appear that the supremacy of the Pope over Emperor’s was set in Silvester’s healing Constantine of Leprosy. Constantine gave Silvester and the Roman Church Rome and he made his center of power Constantinople (not Istanbul).
How Sylvester’s feast day became associated with fireworks and feuerzangenbowle and a bizarre type of fortunetelling called “Bliegiessen” is still a mystery to me. However, the consumption of Glühwein, is not.
Glühwein is a rich red wine infused with mulling spices. Typically I find them too overpowering with the flavor of clove. So this year I picked up Apple Punch from the Christkindl people. You will recognize it from the Apple Cake post. Silvester marks the start of the deep cold. Or rather, it would if there wasn’t so much damn climate change. Fire bowls and spiced wines are the typical beverage for winter time parties.
I am not brave enough to try the feuerbowle (fire bowl) yet. I have seen it done well and without flare ups at Alpine and Bavarian festivals. However I am not sure that I am ready for the investment in equipment.
Another traditional Silvester experience is the fondue & raclette. ALDI had some raclette cookware for the holidays. As no one really knows what they are for there are a good many left in the discount aisle. Now that I have some idea, I will have to run in and get one tomorrow so that I can report back later. Since we mostly all know what fondue is I won’t bore you with that one unless I find a truly amazing cheese experience beyond a bit of port and cheddar. I am not a fan of that combo. But oh well.
If anyone here has some great Silvester recipes they would like to share then drop a line. I know it is too late for this year’s celebration but we have 12 months to prepare for the next!