Some Ukrainians move up Christmas to part ways with Russia

BOBRYTSIA: Ukirainians usually celebrate Christmas on January 7, so did the Russians. But not this year, or at least not all of them. Some Ukrainian Orthodox have decided to celebrate Christmas on December 25, like many Christians around the world. Yes, this has something to do with the war, and yes, they have the blessing of the local church.
The idea of ​​celebrating the birth of Jesus in December is considered radical in Ukraine until recently, but the Russian invasion has changed many hearts and minds.
In October, leaders of the city. Ukrainian Orthodox Churchwhich is not affiliated with the Russian church and is one of two branches of Orthodox Christianity in the country, has agreed to allow believers to celebrate on December 25.
The choice of date has clear political and religious implications in a country with rival Orthodox churches and where minor modifications to ceremonies can have dramatic implications in a culture war. The transformation takes place parallel to the shooting war.
For some, the change of date represents alienation from Russia, its culture and religion. People in a village on the outskirts of Kyiv recently voted in favor of celebrating Christmas.
Bobrytsia resident Olena Paliy, 33, said: “The full-scale invasion that began on February 24 was a wake-up call and realization that we can no longer be part of the Russian world.” .
The Russian Orthodox Church, which claims sovereignty over Orthodoxy in Ukraine, and several other Eastern Orthodox churches continue to use the ancient Julian calendar.
Christmas falls 13 days later on that calendar, or January 7, than the Gregorian calendar used by most church and secular groups.
The Catholic church first adopted the modern, more astronomically accurate Gregorian calendar in the 16th century, and Protestants and some Orthodox churches have since arranged their own calendars. to calculate Christmas.
Synod of Orthodox Church Ukraine decreed in October that local church principals could choose dates together with their communities, said the decision after years of discussion but also stemming from wartime circumstances.
In Bobrytsia, some members of the faith have pushed for change in the local church, which recently transitioned to become part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which has no ties to Russia.
When a vote was taken last week, 200 out of 204 people said yes to passing December 25 as the new date for Christmas.
“This is a huge step forward because never before in our history have we celebrated Christmas in Ukraine with the whole Christian world. We have always been divided,” Roman Ivanenko, a local official in Bobrytsia, said. those who promote change.
With the switch, he said, they are “breaking this connection” with the Russians.
As in all Kyiv regions, Sunday morning in Bobrytsia began with sirens blaring, but that didn’t stop people from gathering at the church for the first Christmas Mass on December 25. Finally, no attacks were reported in the capital.
“No enemy can take it away holiday because the holiday is born in the soul,” Father Rostyslav Korchak said in his homily, in which he used the words “war”, “soldiers” and “evil” more. is “Jesus Christ”.
Anna Nezenko, 65, has been to church in Bobrytsia every Christmas since the building was inaugurated in 2000, though always on January 7. She said she didn’t feel strange doing so on Sunday.
“The most important thing is that God is born in the heart,” she said.
In 2019, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, granted full independence, or autonomy, to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Ukrainians who support the recognition of a national church parallel to Ukraine’s political independence from the former Soviet Union have long sought such approval.
The Russian Orthodox Church and its leader, Patriarch Kirill, vehemently opposed the move, saying Ukraine was not under Bartholomew’s jurisdiction.
Another major branch of Orthodoxy in the country, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, remained loyal to Moscow until the outbreak of war. It declared independence in May, though it remains under government oversight. That church has a tradition of celebrating Christmas on January 7th.


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