This year’s Christmas season began on the day I arrived in Opishnya, December 7th. The seventh of December is an important day for Americans, myself, and Ukrainians, but for very different reasons. It is National Pearl Harbor Remembrance day, my Swearing-In day, and Saint. Catherine’s day. In Ukraine, St. Catherine’s day marks the start of the Christmas season. Saint Catherine of Alexandria is a Christian Saint, who died in the early 4th century at the hands of the pagan emperor Maxentius. St. Catherine’s day today, involves eating lots of food and women trying to learn which direction their future husbands live. Since I arrived late at night, the only festivity that I participated in was eating lots of food! The next Christmas activity I was able to attend was one of my host sister’s Christmas concerts. This particular concert was held at the Holy Dormition Cathedral in Poltava after Sunday morning mass. This day trip was full for exciting firsts for me: spending time with my new host family, traveling to a new city, attending an Eastern Orthodox mass for the first time, and watching my sister’s Christmas concert with St. Nicholas!
(St. Nicholas made a surprise appearance at the cathedral)
The two weeks following my trip to Poltava involved even more Christmas activities, at school and at home! There were: two Christmas concerts (one for the junior students and one for the secondary students) to attend, a district contest to help prepare for (my English student Dizhana won first place and will be participating in the regional contest next), lots of christmas decoration to put up (Christmas trees, window decorations of lights and snowflakes), a presentation about American Christmas traditions (amongst the usual PCV and grad student things to do), and making a special appearance at my family’s Christmas Eve party in South Carolina. I feel so blessed to live in a village of people who love me and invite me to all the local (and non-local) activities, especially since this is my first time spending the Christmas season outside of the U.S.
(Christmas tree in the 5th A form’s class)
(Opishnya’s Specialized School’s Christmas decorations)
(I got to see my family on Christmas Eve…via Skype)
Now that I have told you a little about the Christmas season in Ukraine, I would love to hear from you! Please comment below with your favorite holiday tradition(s). My personal favorite has always been, and still is, attending Christmas concerts.