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.


  1. I'm dreaming of a Storm Trooper on Christmas... the costumes were awesome!

  2. I love how you're educating me...I don't remember, but it's not like this in Hungary?? It is great to have a view into your life...praying for you all!

  3. Abby,
    No, it's not the same in Hungary. Hungary is primarily Reformed or Roman Catholic so they don't have the calendar issue. They celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25. They have some interesting traditions too which you'll soon learn more about. Dec. 6 is "Mikulas nap" (St. Nicholas Day) and kids put their shoes out at night to receive candy and fruit in them in the morning (if they've been good). Many Hungarians decorate the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve without the kids seeing the process. (That might be just a Roman Catholic tradition but I'm not sure.) An angel brings the gifts at Christmas.

    Experiencing holidays in different cultures is so much fun!