We are living in interesting times, and it may even impact when members of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine celebrate Christmas, Premier Christian News reports.
During a church synod held in October, the leaders of Ukraine’s Orthodox Church encouraged its members to celebrate Christmas on December 25 this year, instead of January 7th as it has traditionally done. The group has approximately 7,000 churches in Ukraine.
For centuries, Ukraine’s orthodox church was under the auspices of the Russian Orthodox Church. However, in 2019 it broke free from the Russian Orthodox Church due largely to Russia’s seizure of Crimea in 2014.
The differences between the two groups have only grown since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. In September, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, likened Russia’s invasion to a Holy War and said any Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine would be absolved of their sin.
In an interview with Premier Christian News, Christian historian Martyn Whittock explained the decision to move the celebration of Christ’s birth to Dec 25:
“Orthodox believers in Ukraine, who are now independent of Moscow, are being encouraged to consider celebrating Christmas in line with the Western Church, not the Moscow controlled Church. It’s a way of detaching themselves even more from Moscow. It’s very complicated, but it’s also very, very symbolic.”
In 1054, known as the Great Schism, the church split into Eastern and Western Christianity. The Eastern, which formed the Orthodox church, followed the Julian calendar that celebrated Christ’s birth on January 7th, while those in the West followed the Gregorian calendar and celebrated it on Dec 25.
At that time, the Orthodox Church also chose to downplay Christ’s birth and focus its attention on Easter.