Ukraine’s new Christmas Day unites Catholic-Orthodox family

By Margaryta Chornokondratenko and Yurii Kovalenko

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukrainian couple Lesia Shestakova, a Catholic, and Oleksandr Shestakov, an Orthodox believer, will for the first time celebrate Christmas together on Dec. 25.

Ukraine, like Russia, officially observed Orthodox Christmas on Jan. 7 according to the Julian calendar until Kyiv passed a law earlier this year shifting the date to Dec. 25 in line with other Western European countries.

It is part of a cultural shift that is erasing traces of Russian influence as Ukraine fends off Moscow’s invasion launched nearly two years ago.

    Lesia, Oleksandr and two of their children used to celebrate Christmas twice: first with Lesia’s parents in December and then with Oleksandr’s parents in January.

    “There is finally a day in Ukraine which my husband and I can spend together in the cathedral and thank God that we are together, alive and in good health,” Lesia told Reuters on Sunday as the pair attended the morning service at the Catholic Cathedral of St. Alexander in Kyiv.

    Lesia and Oleksandr agreed that distancing the country from Russian religious and cultural traditions will help strengthen Ukraine even more.

    “Everything Soviet-related – hammer and sickle, stars, idols and monuments to those like (former Soviet leader) Lenin – are being destroyed. And now, on December 25, the country’s rebirth will start, with new holidays,” Oleksandr said.

    Moscow’s February 2022 attack prompted many Ukrainians to reject Russian language and culture and other historical ties to Kyiv’s former ruler.

    Lesia has already practised cooking the food that will be at the centre of the table on Christmas morning, including her grandmother’s traditional recipes.

(Editing by Kirsten Donovan)