December 25 has been celebrated as Christmas Day by Christians for centuries. Ukrainians, predominantly adherents of Eastern Orthodoxy, still observe Christmas on January 7.
In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII introduced the calendar currently in use in most parts of the world. There were some slight differences in calculation which apparently made it more accurate. Jesus was born under the Julian calendar which had been put into effect in 45 B.C. While Ukraine, like most countries, eventually 1918 adopted the Gregorian calendar. December 25 under the Julian calendar is January 7 on the Gregorian calendar. Hence, Americans, Canadians and most Europeans celebrate Christmas on a different day than those of us here in Ukraine.
It's worth to remark that Ukraine has a new, unified, independent and national Orthodox church. Church holidays will be very slowly moving from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. Especially after the Revolution of Dignity 2013-2014 Ukrainians choose to have more in common with their fellow Europeans by recognizing that Christmas Day it’s not dogma, that it’s just a date, it may as well be on December 25. The meaning of Nativity of Christ can be expressed on any day.
For now there are two Christmases in Ukraine, both observed as statutory holidays: December 25 and January 7.
December 25 remains a new holiday in Ukraine and it seen if it will become an occasion for additional day off, preparation for New Year night, traveling, gift-giving and feasting, as it is in many other parts of the world.
January 7 - Old Orthodox Christmas – remains a main holy day in Ukraineset aside by the Church: a time for going to church to celebrate the Birth of Christ. In the last week of the “nativity fast” Orthodox believers are encouraged to spend more time in reflection and study as they prepare for January 7. In the Western world they may casually talk about the “Christmas holidays.” In Ukraine “Christmas” refers specifically to the observance of the birth of Christ. The Ukrainian word for “Christmas” (Різдво) is probably better translated “Nativity.”
Christmas in America, Canada and most European Countries is more like New Year (December 31st) in Ukraine. Still is the time for a big celebration in Ukraine. Most of things center around New Years Day, however. Ukrainians call their holiday tree “New Year Tree”, while other nations call it “Christmas Tree”. They decorate trees, homes, buy gifts to exchange on December 31-January 1st. That is the time when gifts from Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) and his grand-daughter Snegurochka (Snow Maiden) are opened. Most families and friends have a big party on New Years Eve night. It is the biggest holiday of the year as far.
Nowadays Ukraine has two Christmas holidays. It also has two other special days in the winter season for the giving of gifts to children such as St. Nicholas day and New Year. Occasions to wish the blessings of peace and love and joy to the world are in abundance.
Don’t forget to select the best Christmas gifts for friends and family in Ukraine in advance before Christmas holidays. There is no better time than Christmas to send your sincerest wishes to people you love so much overseas. Merry Christmas to you and your families!