December 19, 2011 Saint Nicholas Day in Ukraine

This special day is celebrated in many European nations on December 6 and often features gift giving—including St. Nick leaving toys and sweets in children's shoes. However, in the Ukraine and some other nations, this holiday is often celebrated today, December 19!

Why this later date? It is because people in the Ukrainian Church (and Greek and Russian Orthodox Christians, also) typically use the Julian calendar for holidays, and the Julian calendar is 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar. Christmas isn't celebrated on the Julian calendar until January 7, and New Year's Eve is on January 13.

However, the world is shrinking. Many people move to or visit other countries, people share information globally, and to some extent our customs are evolving as we exchange ideas. It is harder, these days, to try to do business if many others are closed for the day because of a holiday—and it's also hard to close for a holiday on a day when most of the world is still doing business. These things put pressure on Ukrainians to conform to the rest of the world. Most Ukrainian families now exchange gifts on Christmas Eve or morning rather than on St. Nicholas Day, and some families celebrate Christmas twice—on December 25 and January 7!

Saint Nicholas lived in the 4th century in Myra, Asia Minor, which is now part of Turkey. Nicholas entered a monastery as youth and eventually became a bishop. He was mistreated and imprisoned by some powerful people, but then he was freed by Emperor Constantine. He was generous with others, and there are some stories about him leaving gifts secretly, in the middle of the night. Hmm...does that sound familiar?

Try making Ukrainian Saint
Nicholas Cookies.
Here is a recipe
(you'll have to scroll down).
To find out more about St. Nicholas Day, check out this earlier post.

To find out more about Ukraine, check out this, that, and this other earlier post.

To find out more about the Julian and Gregorian calendars, check out this and that earlier post.

Also on this date...

It's still time for Las Posadas! 

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