Some Ukrainians speed up Christmas celebration in the face of Russian invasion

Christmas has come earlier than usual for some Ukrainians as the war with Russia continues to rage.

At least some Orthodox Ukrainians woke up on Christmas Sunday – along with many other Christians around the world – instead of January 7, when the holy day is usually commemorated.

However, due to the ongoing war with Russia, parts of Ukraine wanted to break away from sharing a celebration with the nation led by Vladimir Putin.

The leadership of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine gave its blessing to the faithful to celebrate Christmas on December 25 from this year. For some, the date change represents a move away from Russian culture and religion. A village on the outskirts of Kyiv even voted recently to bring forward its Christmas holidays.

“What started on February 24, the full-scale invasion, is a wake-up call and a realization that we can no longer be part of the Russian world,” said Olena Paliy, 33, from Bobrytsia.

Christmas Day saw further fighting as three missiles hit an industrial area in the town of Kramatorsk in the partially occupied Donetsk region, local officials said.

Performers perform during Christmas celebrations at a Ukrainian National Guard military post amid the Russian attack on Ukraine in the Kharkiv region on December 24.
Reuters

The Ukrainian governor of Donetsk, Pavlo Kyrylenko, reported that the town of Avdiivka was also attacked and a woman was injured.

Elsewhere in the country, locals tried to celebrate the holy day.

In the Kyiv region, residents of Bobrytsia gathered for their first Christmas service on Sunday despite the sound of sirens. No attack was ultimately reported in the area.

Ukrainian servicemen are pictured having Christmas dinner.
Ukrainian servicemen have their festive Christmas dinner, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, at an unknown location.
by Reuters

“No enemy can take away the party because the party is born in the soul,” Reverend Rostyslav Korchak said in his homily. He used the words “war”, “soldiers” and “evil” more than “Jesus Christ”.

The Russian Orthodox Church, which claims the power of Orthodoxy in the neighboring country, uses the old Julian calendar; most churches and secular groups followed the Gregorian calendar.

The Synod of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine gave rectors of local churches and their communities the green light in December to choose when to celebrate Christmas. The decision comes after years of discussion, but was also prompted by the Russian invasion.

It's the first Christmas since the invasion of Ukraine last February.

It’s the first Christmas since the invasion of Ukraine last February.


Women receive bread at a humanitarian aid distribution point in Kramatorsk.

Women receive bread at a humanitarian aid distribution point in Kramatorsk.


Publicity

Volodymyr, 61, and Nataliia Bolias, 51, walk past an industrial building that received a missile strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, during heavy bombardment on Christmas Day on the frontline in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on December 25.

Volodymyr, 61, and Nataliia Bolias, 51, walk past an industrial building that received a missile strike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, during heavy bombardment on Christmas Day on the frontline in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on December 25.


Worshipers pray during the Christmas Mass at the Cathedral of the Ascension of the Lord in Kherson, southern Ukraine, on December 25.


Publicity

A vote held in Bobrytsia last week resulted in almost unanimous adoption of December 25 as the new day to celebrate Christmas. Some members of the faith have promoted change within the local church which recently switched to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has no ties to Russia.

Roman Ivanenko, a local official who lobbied for the change, called the switch “severing that connection” with the Russians.

“It’s a big step because never in our history have we had the same Christmas celebration dates in Ukraine with the whole Christian world,” he said. “All the time we were apart.”

A Christmas tree is pictured lit up by electricity generated by a man pedaling a bicycle at a train station in Kyiv on December 19.
A Christmas tree is lit up by electricity generated by a man pedaling a bicycle at a train station in Kyiv on December 19, 2022, amid power cuts across Ukraine due to Russian missile attacks.
News Kyodo/Sipa USA

A woman who has attended church in Bobrytsia every Christmas since 2000 – although usually on January 7 – found no difference in enjoying Christmas on the earliest date.

“The most important thing is that God is born in the heart,” said 65-year-old Anna Nezenko.

In 2019, the spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, endorsed the full independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. But the Russian Orthodox Church and its leader, Patriarch Kirill, opposed the move and argued that Ukraine was not under Bartholomew’s jurisdiction.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church – the country’s other Orthodox branch – was loyal to Moscow before the war. It declared independence in May and traditionally celebrated Christmas on January 7.

With post wires

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button