As a significant legislative change, Ukraine has moved its official day of observing Christmas from January 7 to December 25 further deviating from the Russian orthodox church traditions.
The Ukraine parliament passed the bill in early July. CNN reports Ukraine President, Volodymyr Zelensky lawfully adopted the bill on Friday.
The sponsors of the legislation noted that the passing of the bill seeks to help Ukraine “abandon the Russian heritage of imposing the celebration of Christmas on January 7,” and “live their life with their traditions (and) holidays.”
The legislation has been interpreted also as a deviation from Russia’s cultural dominance, given that the Orthodox community in Ukraine has been gradually severing ties with Moscow since 2014 when Russia’s Illegal annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
The separation of the two branches of Orthodox Christianity was enhanced following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. However, the full endorsement of the invasion by Russian Orthodox Church head, Patriarch Kirill who framed it as a cultural conflict between the wider Russian Orthodox world and Eastern Liberal values, further escalated the separation.
The law largely codifies what some Ukrainian churches had previously begun practicing. For instance, a division of the Ukraine Orthodox Church permitted Christmas to be celebrated on December 25 last year. Similarly, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church changed the date of their Christmas celebration to December 25.
Following a December vote by Ukraine citizens on whether the Christmas date be moved to December 25 or not, Almost 59% of over 1.5 million voters were in support of the move.
The legislation not only changed the Christmas celebration date but also several Ukrainian holidays that fall on religious festivities. For instance, the country’s independence day was moved from July 28 to July 15. The Day of Defenders of Ukraine is also from October 14 to October 1.