Date: 29 December 2023 Author: Szymon Polewka

Ukrainians Celebrate Christmas on December 25 for the First Time

Ukrainian Orthodox Christians attended services as the country for the first time celebrated Christmas on December 25, after the government changed the date from January 7, when most Orthodox believers celebrate. Shifting the date from January 7 to December 25 is seen as another symbol of breaking away from Moscow, signifying the nation’s intent for lasting cultural ties with the West.


Back in July, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a law moving the official Christmas Day holiday to December 25. “All Ukrainians are together,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a Christmas message. “We all celebrate Christmas together. On the same date, as one big family, as one nation, as one united country.”

In an article for the Polish news website OKO.Press, Krystyna Garbicz quoted a June 2023 poll where 63 percent of Ukrainians approved the Revised Julian calendar. It is a calendar proposed a hundred years ago by the Serbian scientist Milutin Milankovic as a more accurate alternative to the Julian calendar. In total, of sixteen autocephalous Orthodox churches, as many as ten follow the New Julian calendar. The new calendar has not been adopted by the Orthodox churches of Russia, Georgia, Serbia, or Jerusalem.

Ukraine is predominantly Orthodox Christian, but the faith is divided between two churches, one of which had a long affiliation with the Russian Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which did not recognize the authority of the Russian church and had been regarded as schismatic, was granted full recognition in 2019 by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Orthodoxy’s top authority. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which was a branch of the Russian church, announced in 2022 after the start of the Russia-Ukraine war that it was breaking ties with Moscow and considered itself autonomous. Technically, the change in the celebration is a recommendation; individual parishes are deciding when to mark the holiday. Of roughly 7,500 parishes in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, all but 120 shifted the date of Christmas. The Orthodox Church of Ukraine announced its decision to adopt the New Julian, or Revised Julian calendar, from September 1, 2023. Its decision follows a similar one by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

Ukrainians Celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25 For the First Time, Time, December 25, 2023.

Ada Michalak, Ukraiński parlament zatwierdził nowy termin Bożego Narodzenia, Rzeczpospolita, July 14, 2023.

Andrew E. Kramer, Christmas Moves to Dec. 25 in Ukraine, Another Rebuff of Russia, The New York Times,

Krystyna Garbicz, W Ukrainie Boże Narodzenie dwa tygodnie wcześniej. To też skutek rosyjskiej agresji,, December 23, 2023.

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