Ukrainian Orthodox Christian church in Md. celebrates final January Christmas

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church was first granted its independence from the Russian Orthodox Church in 2019. The Russian invasion of Ukraine fractured the relationship even more, and helped expedite the Ukrainian church’s move to the Gregorian calendar Christmas on Dec. 25. (WTOP/Luke Lukert)
The Ukrainian church has long celebrated Christmas on Jan. 7, but going forward will celebrate the Christian holiday on Dec. 25. (WTOP/Luke Lukert)
“This war, even for those that were on offense, or [had] lukewarm feelings about Russians, all that is gone,” Reverend Fr. Volodymyr Steliac said. “They want anything that is associated with Russians to be separated, to cut off, to distance themselves.” (WTOP/Luke Lukert)
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Ukrainian Orthodox Christians, along with many other orthodox Christians across the world, are celebrating Christmas Saturday. But a local pastor with St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral said this is likely the last time they will pack the pews for Christmas service in January.

Reverend Fr. Volodymyr Steliac told WTOP that his parish has voted to observe the Gregorian calendar and move Christmas from Jan. 7 to to Dec. 25.



“The Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the official Church of Ukraine [has already signaled] its intention to move to 25th,” Steliac said.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has long had ties to the Russian Orthodox Church, but in 2019 the ties began to sever when Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople granted independence to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine further soured the relationship and prompted the move toward a new calendar.

“This war, even for those that were on offense, or [had] lukewarm feelings about Russians, all that is gone,” Steliac said. “They want anything that is associated with Russians to be separated, to cut off, to distance themselves.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin called for a ceasefire during Orthodox Christmas, an order that Steliac called “typical Russian theater.”

“It’s all done with intent to subvert people’s opinion, and allow bloggers and media that is supportive of them to show see how wonderful he is,” Steliac said. “But if that’s the case, why don’t you pull out your troops?”

Ukrainian officials have denounced that ceasefire and said Saturday that it is being ignored by some of Russian forces. Russia’s Defense Ministry insisted that its forces were observing the ceasefire, but returned fire when attacked

While the country is at war, Steliac said Ukrainians are hopeful this holiday season, rather than somber.

“Members of family are missing from the table. Of course this is tragic,” Steliac said. “In spite of all that, their heart is full of joy. Their heart is full of hope.”

“When this war started, they could not say with certainty that their country wouldn’t be gone. Today … they are closer to a freedom that they never had before.”

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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