Ukrainian churches say farewell to Russian calendar


Eastern Europe


Ukrainians celebrate Christmas. Photo AFP, Genya Savilov

Starting on September 1, 2023, the UGCC in Ukraine will switch the dates of certain holidays from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar. That means that they will celebrate Christmas on December 25. It is the first church in Ukraine to take this step officially. It is clear step away from Russia to the West.

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church switches partly from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar. That is reported by SPHZ. It will celebrate holidays as Christmas, on a set date, together with the Western churches.

That was decided by the Synod of Bishops of the Greek Catholic Church. The head of the Synod, Svyatoslav Shevchuk, announced the news on Monday.

The Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine from the outside looks very much like an Orthodox Church, but the beliefs are Roman Catholic. The UGCC is a typical Ukrainian mix of Eastern and Western forms.

Some other holidays are set to specific dates, as the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, the Feast of Intercession on October 1, and the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy and Life-Giving Cross on September 14. These remain on these dates.


For Easter and Pentecost, the church sticks to the Julian calendar. These feasts depend on the moon cycle.

The Julian calendar is used among some Eastern Orthodox Churches.

However, Supreme Bishop Shevchuk added that holding onto some dates from the Julian Calendar is most likely only temporary. That is reported by Religion Pravda. Thus, the reform of the holiday dates actually consists of two phases, in which the second phase will include Easter, the so-called Paschalia. “The work continues, the discussion between Rome and Constantinople, on a joint, renewed Paschal, to celebrate Easter on one day. Our rulers decided to wait a few years”, Svytoslav Shevchuk said.

Local UGCC churches have until 2025 to shift the dates of set holidays from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar.


The change in the calendar comes after several surveys. Reuters reports that a poll, held in December 2022, showed that 59 per cent of at least 1.5 million respondents favoured moving Christmas celebrations to December 25.

The UGCC also conducted several surveys, for example, with the clergy of the denomination. Svyatoslav indicated that he “personally asked each bishop and exarch to hold meetings with their clergy to be the voice of their diocese and exarchate at the Synod.”


The Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which separated from the Moscow Patriarchate in 2019, will decide whether they go along with the calendar reform in May. That is reported by SPHZ based on a Facebook post and a press release from the church. OCU spokesperson Evstratiy Zorya says that “there are all arguments and grounds for making a positive decision.” In December 2021, the Primate of the (Western oriented) OCU already pleaded for Christmas on December 25th.

The recent polls indicate that there is a growing demand for calendar reform. At the same time, the church leadership says it does not want to take hasty decisions.


On the other hand, OCU Metropolitan Yevstratiy of Bilotserkiv set out several arguments against the reform. He argued, for example, that Christians in Jerusalem use the Julian calendar.

Last year, the OCU allowed its believers to celebrate Christmas on December 25 already if they wished to do so. This was reported at the time by CNE.news.


Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2023, more and more Ukrainians have wanted to celebrate Christmas on December 25 to break with the traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church. The percentage in favour of this grew from 26 to 44 per cent in one year, CNE.news wrote. The Ukrainian Baptists changed to the Western calendar already.



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