Did you know that Ukrainians celebrate two Christmases? Like many nations, Ukraine transitioned from the old Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar, while religious celebrations continued to follow the old calendar. The Julian calendar is missing leap days, and falls behind by 2 weeks, which places Christmas Day (Dec. 25th) on January 6th. Many people get together on both dates, however, December 25th is taking over as the trendy one to align with the rest of the world’s celebrations.
Santa Claus (Svyatyy Mykolay)
Do you like toys? How about presents? Have you heard of a legendary bearded grandpa riding reindeer at night giving out presents to kids? In Ukraine, kids receive their gifts from a bearded man on the morning of December 19th under their pillows. Ukrainian Santa is called “Svyaty Mykolay”. He does not wear a red robe, and he does not ride reindeer. On Saint Nicholas Day, people in Ukraine get together to volunteer and help out the poor and orphaned children. Ukrainians keep the spirit of St. Nick alive by helping those who need it. Have you helped anyone recently?
Christmas Carols (Schedrik, ‘Carol of the Bells’)
You can not have Christmas without singing Carols, and you cannot have carols without singing Schedrik (aka ‘Carol of the Bells’). Though not strictly a Christmas Carol, this traditional composition was arranged by a Ukrainian musician, Mykola Leontovych over 100 years ago. Leontovych’s compositions have been played, reinterpreted, and adapted all around the world, including John Williams in Home Alone - a staple Christmas movie from 1990. This is a video of Schedrik, as sung by a famous Ukrainian Rock singer, Oleh Skrypka. Accompanying video is how a sacred swallow saves the dirty and corrupt world with its powers.
Many Ukrainians put up a tree for winter festivities. In the capital city, Kyiv, a ceder tree towering over 20 meters is set up next to Saint Sophia's Cathedral along with beautiful lights to illuminate the famous square. It is rumoured that this year’s tree will be around 30 meters tall. In 2014, a tree to be installed on Maidan became one of the symbols of the Revolution of Dignity when the installation was interrupted by popular uprising.