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Celebrating Christmas twice: Ukraine’s story

January 15, 2013 No Comment
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Alpha and Omega members carol in the streets.

UKRAINE – This past December 25 was, as it is every year, a day of rejoicing for Christians around the world as they celebrated the birth of Christ the Saviour. But in Ukraine, the festivities came twice: once on December 25 and again on January 6.

“Maybe it seems strange to you,” writes Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) missionary Rev. Alexey Navrotskyy, “but many Ukrainian Christians celebrate Christmas two times. The first time we celebrate it on December 25, according to the Gregorian calendar and the traditions of western churches.” The second, he explains, “is January 6, according to the ancient Julian calendar and the Orthodox Christian tradition.”

It is the latter event that is a national holiday. The way in which each of these days is celebrated differs somewhat. “The focus of the December celebration is Divine worship and the church family,” says Rev. Navrotskyy. “The focus of the latter is family.”

But both days are still overshadowed by New Year’s celebrations. “At the time of the communist regime,” Rev. Navrotskyy explains, “the celebration of Christmas was forbidden over all USSR territory. Due to this, the celebration of the New Year has been elevated over Christmas.” But for that very reason, Christians in Ukraine celebrate Christmas all the more joyfully. “That’s why Ukrainian Christians value Christmas so highly now and use every opportunity to share the Good News about the newborn Christ and Saviour with their neighbours during the Christmas season.”

Rev. Alexey Navrotskyy leads worship Christmas Eve.

Rev. Alexey Navrotskyy leads worship Christmas Eve.

The Alpha and Omega Student Center (A&O) in Dnepropetrovsk, with which Rev. Navrotskyy works, took full advantage of the Christmas season to bring the Gospel to the people around them. They held a candlelight Christmas service, led by Rev. Navrotskyy, at the Lutheran Community of Saint Katherine, situated near the city park.

“A lot of people spend their evenings in the park,” said attendee Anton Maslo, “as the park is brightly decorated for the Christmas and New Year’s season.” A&O took the opportunity to invite these passers-by to worship with them. “Some young people from A&O set up a small stand right outside the church building,” said Mr. Maslo, “offering hot tea to the passers-by and singing joyful carols.”

Tania Muntian explains that this is a Christmas tradition in Dnepropetrovsk. “Every year members of Alpha and Omega Student Centre gather together as a team and go downtown to sing about the birth of the world’s Redeemer.” She continued: “We want to remind people that this day is not simply a day off work and a time to enjoy sales at the shopping centres. Christ was born! Let’s glorify Him!”

A&O also prepared a theatre night for January 8. The group of about twenty presented a play based Maurice Maeterlinck’s work “The Blue Bird.” The play invites members to ask what happiness is and where it can be truly found. About 400 people were in attendance for the two performances in Dnepropetrovsk.

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Members of the Alpha and Omega theatre troupe perform.

A few days earlier, the theatre troupe travelled to the city of Apostoloff where they presented the play for local children and orphans at the rehabilitation centre. Following that performance, the group presented the children with gifts which had been donated by students at A&O. “Thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ,” said Yulia Gaiday, director of the drama group, “for giving us the opportunity to share warmth and joy with children through our play.”

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This article is based on reports from Anton Maslo, Tania Muntian, Yulia Gaiday, and LCC Missionary Rev. Alexey Navrotskyy.

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