Some Ukrainians move up Christmas to part ways with Russia

Dec 24, 2022, 10:07 AM | Updated: Dec 25, 2022, 5:53 am
Ukrainian army medics Eugenia and Oleksander embrace after their wedding ceremony in Lyman, Donetsk...

Ukrainian army medics Eugenia and Oleksander embrace after their wedding ceremony in Lyman, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Libkos)

(AP Photo/Libkos)

              Ukrainian army medics Eugenia and Oleksander embrace after their wedding ceremony in Lyman, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Libkos)
            
              Ukrainian army medics Eugenia and Oleksander, left, exchange rings during their wedding ceremony in Lyman, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Libkos)
            
              Ukrainians attend a Christmas mass at an Orthodox Church in Bobrytsia, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022. Sunday began with the sound of sirens, but that didn't prevent people from gathering in the church and attend for the first time a Christmas mass on Dec. 25. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
            
              Ukrainians attend a Christmas mass at an Orthodox Church in Bobrytsia, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022. Ukrainians usually celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, as do Russians. Not this year, or at least not all of them. Some Orthodox Ukrainians have decided to observe Christmas on Dec. 25, like many Christians around the world. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
            
              Ukrainians attend a Christmas mass at an Orthodox Church in Bobrytsia, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022. Sunday began with the sound of sirens, but that didn't prevent people from gathering in the church and attend for the first time a Christmas mass on Dec. 25. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
            
              Ukrainians attend a Christmas mass at an Orthodox Church in Bobrytsia, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022. Sunday began with the sound of sirens, but that didn't prevent people from gathering in the church and attend for the first time a Christmas mass on Dec. 25.(AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
            
              FILE - Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, center, accompanied by the head of the Ukrainian Church Metropolitan Epiphanius, right, visits the Mikhailovsky Zlatoverkhy Cathedral (St. Michael's Golden-Domed Cathedral) in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Aug. 21, 2021. Ukrainians usually celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, as do Russians, but some Orthodox Ukrainians have decided to observe Christmas of 2022 on Dec. 25, like many Christians around the world. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)
            
              Ukrainian priest Rostyslav Korchak speaks during a Christmas mass at an Orthodox Church in Bobrytsia, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022. Sunday began with the sound of sirens, but that didn't prevent people from gathering in the church and attend for the first time a Christmas mass on Dec. 25.(AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
            
              FILE - Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I lays flowers at the Memorial Wall of Fallen Defenders of Ukraine in Russian-Ukrainian War in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Aug. 21, 2021. Ukrainians usually celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, as do Russians, but some Orthodox Ukrainians have decided to observe Christmas of 2022 on Dec. 25, like many Christians around the world. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)
            
              A woman attends a Christmas mass at an Orthodox Church in Bobrytsia, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022. Sunday began with the sound of sirens, but that didn't prevent people from gathering in the church and attend for the first time a Christmas mass on Dec. 25. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
            
              Ukrainian army medics Eugenia and Oleksander, left, exchange rings during their wedding ceremony in Lyman, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Libkos)
            
              Ukrainians attend a Christmas mass at an Orthodox Church in Bobrytsia, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022. Sunday began with the sound of sirens, but that didn't prevent people from gathering in the church and attend for the first time a Christmas mass on Dec. 25. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
            
              Ukrainians attend a Christmas mass at an Orthodox Church in Bobrytsia, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022. Ukrainians usually celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, as do Russians. Not this year, or at least not all of them. Some Orthodox Ukrainians have decided to observe Christmas on Dec. 25, like many Christians around the world. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
            
              Ukrainians attend a Christmas mass at an Orthodox Church in Bobrytsia, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022. Sunday began with the sound of sirens, but that didn't prevent people from gathering in the church and attend for the first time a Christmas mass on Dec. 25. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
            
              Ukrainians attend a Christmas mass at an Orthodox Church in Bobrytsia, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022. Sunday began with the sound of sirens, but that didn't prevent people from gathering in the church and attend for the first time a Christmas mass on Dec. 25.(AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
            
              FILE - Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, center, accompanied by the head of the Ukrainian Church Metropolitan Epiphanius, right, visits the Mikhailovsky Zlatoverkhy Cathedral (St. Michael's Golden-Domed Cathedral) in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Aug. 21, 2021. Ukrainians usually celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, as do Russians, but some Orthodox Ukrainians have decided to observe Christmas of 2022 on Dec. 25, like many Christians around the world. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)
            
              Ukrainian priest Rostyslav Korchak speaks during a Christmas mass at an Orthodox Church in Bobrytsia, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022. Sunday began with the sound of sirens, but that didn't prevent people from gathering in the church and attend for the first time a Christmas mass on Dec. 25.(AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
            
              FILE - Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I lays flowers at the Memorial Wall of Fallen Defenders of Ukraine in Russian-Ukrainian War in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Aug. 21, 2021. Ukrainians usually celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, as do Russians, but some Orthodox Ukrainians have decided to observe Christmas of 2022 on Dec. 25, like many Christians around the world. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)
            
              A woman attends a Christmas mass at an Orthodox Church in Bobrytsia, outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Dec. 25, 2022. Sunday began with the sound of sirens, but that didn't prevent people from gathering in the church and attend for the first time a Christmas mass on Dec. 25. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
            
              Relatives of soldiers from the Azov Regiment, who were captured by Russia in May after the fall of Mariupol, sit at the Christmas table in a flashmob action under the Christmas tree demanding to free the prisoners, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
            
              Municipal workers set a Christmas tree to decorate a square for Christmas and the New Year festivities in Mariupol, in Russian-controlled Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022. (AP Photo)
            
              People walk past a Christmas tree decorated for Christmas and the New Year festivities in Mariupol, in Russian-controlled Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022. (AP Photo)
            
              Members of the Kyiv Opera Theater perform the "Christmas in Shelter" concert, on a stage underground in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Renata Brito)
            
              Relatives of soldiers from the Azov Regiment, who were captured by Russia in May after the fall of Mariupol, demand to free them at a flashmob action near St.Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022. Writing on posters reads "221 days in captivity". (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
            
              Local people buy and sell food ahead of Christmas and the New Year festivities in Mariupol, in Russian-controlled Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov)
            
              An artist dressed as a Cossack holds his guitar after performance for Ukraine's National Guard soldiers to mark Christmas at their position close to the Russian border near Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday Dec. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)
            
              A group of artists perform for Ukraine's National Guard soldiers to mark Christmas at their positions close to the Russian border near Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday Dec. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)
            
              A chaplain blesses Ukraine's National Guard soldiers to mark Christmas at their positions close to the Russian border near Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Dec. 24 2022. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)
            
              A chaplain blesses a soldier to mark Christmas at Ukraine's National Guard position close to the Russian border near Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday Dec. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)
            Fellow-in-arms of soldiers from the Azov Regiment, who were captured by Russia in May after the fall of Mariupol, demand to free them at a prison-style Christmas table during a flashmob action in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022. Relatives of Azove soldiers hold posters reading "Bring Azove back". (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

BOBRYTSIA, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainians usually celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, as do the Russians. But not this year, or at least not all of them.

Some Orthodox Ukrainians have decided to observe Christmas on Dec. 25, like many Christians around the world. Yes, this has to do with the war, and yes, they have the blessing of their local church.

The idea of commemorating the birth of Jesus in December was considered radical in Ukraine until recently, but Russia’s invasion changed many hearts and minds.

In October, the leadership of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which is not aligned with the Russian church and one of two branches of Orthodox Christianity in the country, agreed to allow faithful to celebrate on Dec. 25.

The choice of dates has clear political and religious overtones in a nation with rival Orthodox churches and where slight revisions to rituals can carry potent meaning in a culture war that runs parallel to the shooting war.

For some people, changing dates represents a separation from Russia, its culture, and religion. People in a village on the outskirts of Kyiv voted recently to move up their Christmas observance.

“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,” Olena Paliy, a 33-year-old Bobrytsia resident, said.

The Russian Orthodox Church, which claims sovereignty over Orthodoxy in Ukraine, and some other Eastern Orthodox churches continue to use the ancient Julian calendar. Christmas falls 13 days later on that calendar, or Jan. 7, than it does on the Gregorian calendar used by most church and secular groups.

The Catholic Church first adopted the modern, more astronomically precise Gregorian calendar in the 16th century, and Protestants and some Orthodox churches have since aligned their own calendars for purposes of calculating Christmas.

The Synod of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine decreed in October that local church rectors could choose the date along with their communities, saying the decision followed years of discussion but also resulted from the circumstances of the war.

In Bobrytsia, some members of the faith promoted the change within the local church, which recently transitioned to being part of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, with no ties to Russia. When a vote was taken last week, 200 out of 204 people said yes to adopting Dec. 25 as the new day to celebrate Christmas.

“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. All the time we were separated,” said Roman Ivanenko, a local official in Bobrytsia, and one of the promoters of the change. With the switch, he said, they are “breaking this connection” with the Russians.

As in all the Kyiv region, Sunday morning in Bobrytsia began with the sound of sirens, but that didn’t prevent people from gathering in the church to attend a Christmas Mass on Dec. 25 for the first time. In the end, there were no attacks reported in the capital.

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

Anna Nezenko, 65, attended the church in Bobrytsia on every Christmas since the building was inaugurated in 2000, although always on Jan. 7th. She said she did not feel strange doing so Sunday.

“The most important is the God to be born in the heart,” she said.

In 2019, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, granted complete independence, or autocephaly, to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Ukrainians who favored recognition for a national church in tandem with Ukraine’s political independence from the former Soviet Union had long sought such approval.

The Russian Orthodox Church and its leader, Patriarch Kirill, fiercely protested the move, saying Ukraine was not under the jurisdiction of Bartholomew.

The other 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 scrutiny. That church has traditionally celebrated Christmas on Jan. 7.

____

Arhirova reported from Kyiv, Ukraine. The Associated Press religion correspondent, Peter Smith, contributed from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

___

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

substation...
Associated Press

Puyallup man accused in substation vandalism is released from custody

A federal judge issued the order for Matthew Greenwood, 32, after renewed efforts by his attorney to get Greenwood into a drug-treatment facility.
19 hours ago
FILE - The sun dial near the Legislative Building is shown under cloudy skies, March 10, 2022, at t...
Associated Press

Democrats in Washington state choose Conrad as new leader

The Washington State Democratic Party has chosen Shasti Conrad, the former leader of King County Democrats, as its new chair.
19 hours ago
Hinman Glacier...
Associated Press

Washington’s Hinman Glacier gone after thousands of years

The largest glacier between the high peaks of Mount Rainier and Glacier Peak has melted away after a long battle with global warming.
19 hours ago
Pierce County substation...
Associated Press

Man accused in holiday substation vandalism released from custody

A man charged with vandalizing electrical substations over the holidays to cover a burglary was released from federal custody.
19 hours ago
This photo provided by Peter Phung shows Phung, left, and Ming Wei Ma at the American Chinese Sprin...
Associated Press

Ballroom shooting victims planned for night of fun, dancing

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Those killed by a gunman who opened fire at a Los Angeles-area dance hall are being remembered by friends and family for the zest for life that brought them out that night to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Eleven people were killed when a gunman opened fire on Saturday night at […]
19 hours ago
This photo provided by the Dallas Zoo shows an emperor tamarins that lives at the zoo. Two monkeys ...
Associated Press

2 monkeys taken from Dallas Zoo in latest suspicious event

DALLAS (AP) — Two monkeys were taken from the Dallas Zoo on Monday, police said, the latest in a string of odd incidents at the attraction being investigated — including fences being cut and the suspicious death of an endangered vulture in the past few weeks. No arrests have been made in any of the […]
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Some Ukrainians move up Christmas to part ways with Russia