top of page

Why Ukrainians celebrate Christmas on Jan 7th and not Dec 25th?

Updated: May 24, 2021

Christmas in Ukraine is celebrated on the 7th of January is because, like many countries where the main Church is the Orthodox Church, they use the old 'Julian' calendar for their church festivals.

The Julian calendar was introduced in 46 BC by Julius Caesar, hence its name. At that time, the calendar was the most progressive and accurate at that time. All Christian countries were using it, starting from the IV century AD. But with time, it turned out that this calendar wasn’t perfect: the Julian year was 11 minutes longer than the astronomical one. Those “extra” 11 minutes amounted to one extra day every 128 years. And after 1,500 years, the calendar lagged a whole ten days, which was the reason for the introduction of the renewed Gregorian calendar in the XVI century.

How are Ukrainians about postponing Christmas to the 25th?

According to a survey by the Rating Group, 25% of Ukrainians surveyed support the idea of ​​postponing Christmas celebrations from January 7 to December 25. 64% of respondents are against this idea. Another 7% said they were indifferent to this question, and 4% could not answer.

Patriarch, the head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, said that the Orthodox Church did not mind changing the church

calendar and the date of celebrating Christmas, but that there is no support from the public today. He also suggested that the Moscow Patriarchate would use this situation to its advantage.

According to him, the patriarchate first needs to provide explanations and educational work in this direction. Epiphany also indicated that the reform of the calendar is about changing all major holidays, not just Christmas The number of those who support the postponement of the Christmas celebration has increased (only 15% supported this idea in 2016, 69% opposed).

Hence the word Orthodox means correct belief or right thinking. The Orthodox Churches share with the other Christian Churches the belief that God revealed himself in Jesus Christ, and a belief in the incarnation of Christ, his crucifixion, and resurrection.

In many largely Christian countries, the majority of the population adheres to one sect — perhaps Catholicism, Orthodoxy, or even Protestantism. The vast majority of Ukrainians are at least nominally Orthodox. According to the last census conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology May 2019, the Ukrainian religious society appears divided as follow:

How Christmas is celebrated in Ukraine

In Ukrainian Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Веселого Різдва' Veseloho Rizdva (Merry Christmas) or 'Христос Рождається' Khrystos Rozhdayetsia (Christ is Born).

The main Christmas meal, called 'Sviata Vecheria' (or Holy Supper), is eaten on Christmas Eve (6th January). Traditionally people fast (don't eat anything) all day, but you might start the day drinking some holy water that has been blessed at church.

You can't start eating the meal until the first star is seen in the sky. So people (especially the hungry ones!) go outside as soon as it starts getting dark in the afternoon to try and spot the first star. The star represents the journey of the Wise Men to find Jesus and that Jesus has been born so Christmas can start!

The meal has typically 12 dishes that represent Jesus's 12 disciples. Traditionally the dishes don't have any meat, eggs, or milk in them. The main dish is often 'kutia,' a type of a kind of sweet porridge made of wheat. Other dishes can include mushrooms, sauerkraut, red ‘borsch’ (beet soup), dumplings known as 'varenyky' (Pierogi), 'holopchi' (cabbage rolls, make without meat in them at Christmas!), 'pyrizhky' (cabbage buns), whitefish and 'kolach' (special Christmas bread).

The room where Sviata Vecheria is eaten usually has a Didukh decoration placed in it. The Didukh is made from a sheaf of wheat and symbolizes the vast wheat fields in Ukraine. It literally means 'grandfather spirit' and can represent people's ancestors being with them in their memories. Sometimes people use some heads of wheat in a vase rather than a whole sheaf of wheat.

After the meal, people love to sing carols or 'Koliadky.' They can be sung around the table, or you might go out caroling in the streets. People sometimes carry brightly colored stars on poles when they go caroling singing.

The Ukrainian carol 'Shchedryk' is where the popular 'Carol of the Bells' came from.

St Nicholas (known as Svyatyi Mykolai) visits children in Ukraine on December 19th, which is also when Ukraine celebrates St Nicholas's Day. Hope you enjoyed and HAPPY CHRISTMAS



bottom of page