In France, New Year’s Eve is known as Saint-Sylvestre. Sylvestre I was Pope from January 31, 314 to December 31, 335. Some of the most significant churches in Rome were built during his time, including Saint Peter’s Basilica. In history class, you may have heard of the Donation of Constantine, in which the Emperor acknowledged his submission to Pope Sylvestre and was then baptized, along with his retinue, on Christmas Day. The baptismal water was said to miraculously cure Constantine of leprosy. This document was later proved to be a forgery, but the legend lived on, as it was useful for the Church to be seen as above all human authority. Sylvestre’s death was memorialized as a feast day and the name has stuck, despite the fact that France has been officially laïque since 1905, that is to say, there is no official recognition of religion by the state.
As I mentioned in my blog entry about le Réveillon de Noël, the two biggest meals of the year are on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, or le Réveillon de Saint Sylvestre. For ideas of what’s on offer in Paris restaurants between 35 Euros and 380 Euros a head, click here.