Tuesday, January 18, 2011

CNN-International Highlights Ukraine

If you're interested in learning more about Ukraine, CNN International is featuring Ukraine in their I-List programming.  You can check out their website for TV program times as well as for lots of articles and pictures.  You can even take a quick test to find out how much you know about Ukraine (not so easy for the average person). I highly recommend the brief, picture profile of Ukraine to get a glimpse of the defining moments in Ukraine.  Ukraine Picture profile

Check it out!  I'd love to hear what you found interesting...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

New Years Before Christmas

It's possible to understand this blog's title in two ways and both would be correct.  Being primarily an Orthodox country, Ukraine follows the Julian calendar for their religious holidays but the Gregorian calendar for everything else.  Thus, Christmas falls on January 7 - after New Years.  Not only does New Years come before Christmas on the calendar but it also trumps Christmas in importance.

Under communism religious holidays were not recognized and celebration of them was extremely limited.  But Ukrainians LOVE holidays (during the spring months there's hardly a week without some "saint day" which prohibits some from working) and Ukrainians also know how to throw a good party.  I don't know how it actually happened but New Years became the biggest holiday of the year.  "Father Frost" (similar to our Santa Claus) comes with gifts and greetings.  An evergreen tree is decorated with ornaments and lights.  Fireworks and a huge feast typically with lots of alcohol usher in the new year.
The "New Year's" card we sent to family and friends.

Our church started a tradition already 5 or 6 years ago of hosting a New Year's Eve party.  This year, as in past years, we started with a worship service followed by a potluck.  Church members organized games and we had a great time of fellowship and laughter.  Before midnight we all bundled up in warm clothes and headed to the center of town for fireworks.  Everyone had a great time and it's wonderful to offer an alternative to the typical drunken festivities. 

It is common for people to dress up for New Years or where costumes.  Our kids are very happy about this since they don't have Halloween (not a Ukrainian holiday) to dress up on. 
Abigail in traditional Ukrainian dress

Matthew as a Star War's Storm Trooper

Elizabeth as Minnie Mouse

We had two "Father Frosts" at church with one reindeer!

The kids at church
Happy New Year!

(P.S.  If you're viewing this on Facebook and the pictures and captions are all messed up, you may want to go to the original blog to view.  www.devuysts.blogspot.com)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Visit from Grandma

This Christmas Grandma Snyder made her fourth trip to see us.  We had a wonderful time with the only regret being that the visit was too short.  Upon leaving she cried, "You guys live too far away."  How real the unsung sacrifice the extended families of missionaries make when their loved ones move overseas.  I can only imagine how difficult it is to see your grandchildren only every few years.

To make the most of our rare opportunity to be together, we kept very active. Grandma baked Christmas cookies with the kids. 

We went out on the icy sidewalks in search of tablecloth souvenirs and a Christmas tree.  We relented to the poor choice of live trees and bought a fake one.  For the first year we actually saw some fake trees that looked like trees rather than a bunch of fuzzy green sticks.  We are happy with our decision and this tree will hopefully be our companion for the next few years. 

Grandma had a very rare opportunity indeed to attend a piano recital where Abigail played a little Ukrainian piece called Father Frost.  
You can watch the video clip here:

Since the holidays in Ukraine don't actually begin until December 31, Grandma got to sit out in the hall while Abigail had a dance lesson.  She was hoping to watch the lesson but the teacher apparently wouldn't allow her in.  Grandma made a bad situation worse by leaving her scarf there and in the process of returning the next day to search for it, she lost her hat.  We had a good laugh!  And we got to spend some more time on the icy sidewalks in search of a new scarf.

We went bowling together in the newly opened "mall" and had a fun competition trying to make it to 100 points.

Other memorable moments were playing Rook after the kids were asleep (or at least should have been), a leisurely dinner at the Star Hotel, and struggling to get pie crusts to turn out.

Grandma left our house at 11pm on the 30th.  That night before she left the kids had a hard time falling asleep and were so sad that Grandma would be gone in the morning.  Matthew got out of bed and asked me for permission for Grandma to read them "the last story for a long time."  Ahh, yes, they too miss having their grandparents as part of their lives.  That's why such visits are so very precious.