My first Ukrainian Orthodox Christmas Included Gifts, Feasts, Churches, and Angels Made From Shell Casings
Yes, I know; you thought Christmas was over two weeks ago. And they were certainly celebrating the occasion around here then. But Orthodox Christmas was yesterday, January 7th and the celebration goes on. The trees are still up, and the store decorations are still out.
Back to Bucha’s Ukrainian Premiere on Friday included a ceremonial check presentation from the October 1st screening in Boston at the St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The next day had me using the funds to personally buy a new video camera and powered speaker for the local children’s center which replaced equipment pilfered by Russian soldiers during the occupation.
Then, I was on my way to Vinnytsia with my friend Ben to a small village outside of the city and a Christmas Eve feast with a blacksmith that Ben is working with, and his family. They also celebrated on the 25th with a more traditional western X-Mas when they all watched Home Alone together, a holiday favorite here too!
I’m keeping the names and exact locations a bit vague just in case anyone confuses their humanitarian work with something more offensive in nature.
We had a Christmas Eve feast that included hot borsht and an assortment of meatless dishes.
Then after some conversation with Ben providing translations - and a mammoth log thrown in the furnace – it was time for bed. The next morning, we had a breakfast of nothing but meat dishes it seemed. 5761
Then outside to the “forge” a few steps away to make “staples” and “furnaces” for the front lines. The staples are used to keep logs together inside trenches and the small furnaces they make out of scrap metal are used to keep soldiers warm. A difficult task when the thermometer will drop to -3F (-21C) tonight where I am in Lviv. This kind of volunteering is happening all over Ukraine to support the war effort in a myriad of ways. The blacksmith and Ben receive no remuneration for this work.
Before the blacksmith started making things for the soldiers, he made artisan craftsman work including churches nearby. He still creates artistic works like angel candle holders out of 30mm spent artillery casings. Before the war he also made metalwork for local Orthodox churches like those we visited on our way into the city.
It was here that we met three village ladies caroling from house to house in the morning hours. I had heard to look out for these caroling groups in Ukraine but figured with the bombings of Kyiv I would be out of luck. These ladies definitely made my trip!
Then back into Ben’s van (he brought it with him from the USA when he came five months ago) on snowy streets to the Transfiguration Cathedral in town.
We then got a tour of the church and also witnessed the funeral for a Ukrainian soldier there. They average about one per day we were told.
After a promise to come back I was promised a proper interview with the archdeacon host – including a discussion of their rather recent break from the Moscow Patriarchate and a Metropolitan still under house arrest.
All this in less than 24 hours. Then we piled back into Ben’s van and off to the train station for the next leg of my journey home.