In Ukraine, the Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on January 7th.
When Communism fell, there was a new freedom of religion. The Orthodox Church was no longer the only church allowed by the government. Other Christian groups wanted to celebrate Christmas on December 25th. The new government decided to allow the people to celebrate both. Not only did they celebrate both, but the day after Christmas was always a holiday. So the Christmas Season consisted of: December 25 and 26, December 31 and January 1, 7, and 8. It was most interesting for me to experience this the first year that I was here. If you were a churchgoer, that was a lot of services with a lot of sermons. This season is the first season that will have Christmas only on January 7.
The Evangelical Baptist Church took full advantage of January 8. It may be the first time there was a live presentation of the Christmas story. They created different scenes in the park next to their church. After the 10 AM service was complete, the player all took their places, ready to tell their stories. It was a very cold afternoon, but it didn’t stop the enthusiastic choir or actors. Small groups would go from scene to scene to hear the story. It was a great event. It will be repeated, and will be recreated in different places in Illichevsk.
The people who grew up under persecution still have a high value of what religious freedom means. Unfortunately, this passion has not been experienced by the younger generation. They respond with enthusiasm of the event, but haven’t experienced the true value of what it means to be free to express your beliefs in public. I continue to try to learn of the secrets of life during communism.