Conflicts & War

Ravaged by war, Ukrainians try to keep Christmas spirit alive

By Rostyslav Averchuk

Lviv (Ukraine), Dec 25 (EFE).- Many Orthodox Ukrainians are celebrating Christmas this year on December 25, rather than January 7, to break away from Russian tradition and create a festive atmosphere amid blackouts caused by attacks on infrastructure.

“It’s the first time we celebrate Christmas today. We do it in order to get rid of the common past we had with the Russians,” Lviv resident Olga Senyk tells Efe.

According to a recent survey by the Rating sociological group, some 44% of Ukrainians opted to observe Christmas in December, while 31% were against the change.

The Orthodox Church of Ukraine has already allowed its worshippers to celebrate in December and has agreed to form a joint committee with the Greek Catholic Church to unify their religious calendars and work on aligning them with that of the rest of the Christian world.

As she cooks traditional Christmas meals with her children, Senyk explains that it is important to respect tradition but acknowledges that “there is no festive mood this year for understandable reasons.”

At this time of the year, the streets of Lviv would usually be crowded and filled with noise at markets serving mulled wine and sweets to passersby, many of whom visit from Kyiv, Odesa and Kharkiv.

But this year, an air raid siren sounded for two hours in the morning, warning that Russian missiles were about to be launched yet again.

While many Ukrainians were celebrating Christmas Eve Saturday, eight regions were struck, killing 17 civilians and injuring 70 others, most of them in the southern city of Kherson.

Today, Christmas markets are nowhere to be seen in Lviv. They have been replaced by commemorative boards for fallen soldiers.

Soldiers can be seen here and there during their short stay with their families before going back to the frontline. Young men who have lost limbs are also seen walking with canes.

Windows are decorated and shops that sell Christmas gifts are busy with many customers buying ceramic decorations and toys with patriotic messages.

A Christmas tree was installed in front of the Opera House after a long discussion with city mayor Andriy Sadovyi to do it for the sake of children to prevent “their childhood from being stolen from them completely.” However, it was not adorned with lights in order to save electricity.

Many Ukrainians keep those who remain stuck in occupied territories, have fled the country, or are celebrating Christmas while fighting rages on the frontline in their thoughts

“Thank you, our unbroken defenders! Merry Christmas!” Senyk wrote on her social media account, along with several pictures of Ukrainian soldiers having Christmas dinner on the frontline.EFE


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