Ukrainian Orthodox Christians are celebrating Christmas on December 25 for the first time this year.
Ukraine has traditionally used the Julian calendar, also used by Russia, where Christmas falls on January 7.
In a further shift from Russia, it is now marking Christmas according to the Western – or Gregorian – calendar, which it uses in everyday life.
President Volodymyr Zelensky changed the law in July, saying it allowed Ukrainians to “abandon the Russian heritage” of celebrating Christmas in January.
Photo by Karyna Panchenko
In a Christmas message issued on December 24, Volodymyr Zelensky said all Ukrainians were now together.
“We all celebrate Christmas together. On the same date, as one big family, as one nation, as one united country.”
The Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), a newly created independent church that held its first service in 2019, has also changed its Christmas date to December 25.
It formally broke away from the Russian Orthodox church over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
People prayed and lit candles across the country on December 24.
In the western city of Lviv, which has been little damaged by the war, children in traditional costumes sang carols and took part in festive processions on the streets.
In recent years many worshippers have joined the OCU but millions still follow the historically Russia-linked Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), and so will continue to celebrate Christmas on January 7.
The UOC says that in 2022 it split from Moscow because of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine although many people remain sceptical.
There are expected to be quite a few Ukrainians who will be celebrating twice – the more the merrier.