Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Jolly Old Saint Myk

St. Nicholas' Day (or St. Mykolai in Ukrainian) on December 19 launches the long winter holiday season. Good boys and girls are visited by St. Nick at night, and he places a gift under their pillow. During Soviet times, children were visited by the more secularly-oriented Дед Мороз (Grandfather Frost) on New Year's. On the eve of St. Nicholas' Day, the holiday tree erected in front of the Opera House was dedicated and fireworks lit up the night sky [No political correctness here as the tree is not a "Christmas tree" per se, but rather one that will mark several holidays]. We have already posted about the Ukrainian love for holidays, so it will not surprise you that over the course of the next month, at least five major holidays will be marked by many citizens of L'viv. After St. Nicholas Day, the Roman Catholic Latin Rite Christmas arrives. I have been told that even though Byzantine Rite Catholics celebrate Christmas on the Orthodox calendar in January, people often celebrate December 25th as well. Following Christmas is New Year's Day, then Byzantine Catholic/Orthodox Christmas, and finally Old New Year. Rather than completely adhering to the Gregorian calendar adopted by the Soviets, the New Year is celebrated according to both the Gregorian (January 1) and Julian (January 14) calendars. While officially many institutions remain open for most of this period, it is often treated as "down time."

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