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

At least some Orthodox Ukrainians woke up to Christmas Sunday — along with many other Christians across the globe — instead of Jan. 7, when the holy day is typically commemorated.

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

The leadership of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine gave its blessing to worshippers to observe Christmas on Dec. 25 starting this year. For some, the date change represents a move away from Russian culture and religion. One village on the outskirts of Kyiv even voted recently to move up its Christmas holiday.

“What began on Feb. 24, the full-scale invasion, is an awakening and an understanding that we can no longer be part of the Russian world,” said 33-year-old Olena Paliy of Bobrytsia.

Christmas day still saw fighting as three missiles hit an industrial area of the city of Kramatorsk in the partially occupied Donetsk region, local officials said.

Artists are seen performing during Christmas celebrations for servicemen of the Ukraine National Guard on Dec. 24.
Artists perform during Christmas celebrations at a position of servicemen of the Ukraine National Guard, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv region on Dec. 24.
REUTERS

Ukrainian governor of Donetsk, Pavlo Kyrylenko, reported the city of Avdiivka was also attacked and one woman was wounded.

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

In the Kyiv region, people in Bobrytsia gathered for their first Christmas service Sunday despite the earlier blare of sirens. No attacks were ultimately reported in the area.

Ukrainian service members are pictured having Christmas dinner.
Ukrainian service members have their festive Christmas dinner, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, at an unknown location.
via REUTERS

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

The Russian Orthodox Church, which claims power of Orthodoxy in the neighboring country, uses the ancient Julian calendar; most church and secular groups have gone with the Gregorian calendar.

The Synod of Orthodox Church or Ukraine gave local church rectors and their communities the OK in December to choose which date to celebrate Christmas. The decision comes after years of discussion, but was also nudged along by Russia’s invasion.

This is the first Christmas since Ukraine was invaded last February.
This is the first Christmas since Ukraine was invaded last February.

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


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

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


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A vote taken in Bobrytsia last week resulted in a near unanimous adoption of Dec. 25 as the new day to observe Christmas. Some members of the faith promoted the change within the local church that recently transitioned to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which has no ties to Russia.

Roman Ivanenko, a local official who pushed for the change, called the switch “breaking this connection” with the Russians.

“This is a big step because never in our history have we had the same dates of celebration of Christmas in Ukraine with the whole Christian world,” he said. “All the time we were separated.”

A Christmas tree is pictured lit up with power generated by a man pedaling a bicycle at a Kyiv station on Dec. 19.
A Christmas tree is lit up with power generated by a man pedaling a bicycle at a Kyiv station on Dec. 19, 2022, amid power cuts across Ukraine due to Russia’s missile attacks.
Kyodo News/Sipa USA

One woman who’s attended church in Bobrytsia every Christmas since 2000 — though usually on Jan. 7, — found no difference in enjoying Christmas on the earlier date.

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

In 2019, spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, approved complete independence to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. But the Russian Orthodox Church and its leader, Patriarch Kirill, opposed the move and argued Ukraine was not under the jurisdiction of Bartholomew.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church — the other branch of Orthodox in the country — was loyal to Moscow before the war. It declared independence in May and has traditionally celebrated Christmas on Jan. 7. 

With Post wires



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