Celebrate an Orthodox Christmas > Ukrainian traditions

Traditions, for some, are sacred and are recognized no matter the changing seasons or changes within society itself.

Facing a great deal of change has been challenging for the parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of St. Mary the Protectress in Port Alberni. However, a move to a new chapel in Parksville hasn’t quelled their enthusiasm for their traditional Ukrainian Christmas.

Some Orthodox religions throughout the world celebrate the birth of Christ as it is marked on the Julian calendar, meaning Christmas for them falls on January 6 and 7, that is 13 days after the event on the Gregorian calendar, on December 25. For the members of the St. Mary the Protectress church, it is a time with a specific purpose.

“It’s at this time that Orthodox Ukrainians celebrate the nativity of Jesus Christ,” says Father Michael Sokyrka, a retired priest who presided in Port Alberni for 13 years. “There is no Santa Claus, but we have a St. Nicholas Day in December. It ties in, but that is a separate thing.”

Traditions, he continues, vary in each country that follows the Orthodox religion, Ukraine, Greece, Serbia. Sokyrka notes there are some consistencies in how they celebrate Christmas.

The head of the family at sunset on Christmas Eve on January 6, goes outside to gather a bundle of hay, which is put under the dinner table to signify the manger. On top of the table, a place is set for every person in the house.