Ukraine is on a mission to shed the vestiges of historic Russian influence — and now it’s even got rid of Russian Christmas.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday signed a law which moves the official Christmas Day state holiday from January 7 — as observed by the Russian Orthodox Church — to December 25.
An explanatory note to the law said its aim was to “abandon the Russian heritage” and forms part of a wider campaign to assert Ukrainian identity in defiance of Russia’s 17-month-old invasion.
The Russian Orthodox Church and its leader, Patriarch Kirill, have been strong supporters of the war launched last year by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kirill has said Russian soldiers killed in action will have their sins forgiven and has compared their sacrifice to that of Jesus Christ.
In 2019, part of the church in Ukraine formally gained independence from Moscow to form the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which has become an independent rival to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC).
The new legislation also moves two other state holidays. The Day of Ukrainian Statehood moves from July 28 to July 15; and Defenders Day, which commemorates veterans, shifts from October 14 to October 1.
Kyiv has been cutting religious and cultural ties with Russia since before Putin’s full-scale invasion of the country in February 2022, but the process has accelerated.
Ukraine has recently banned places from being named after Russian figures or historical events. Many streets have been renamed and Soviet-era monuments removed. And the capital’s huge Motherland Statue is set to have Soviet hammer-and-sickle iconography replaced by a Ukrainian trident emblem.
In May, Zelenskyy said he was planning to shift the commemoration of the end of World War II to May 8 in order to align with the West instead of Moscow. Russia, along with some former Soviet states, celebrates the defeat of Nazism on May 9 — a day later than other allied countries.