Ukrainian officials have rejected Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s proposal of a 36-hour ceasefire.
Unlike Western Christianity, which celebrates Christmas on December 25, Eastern Christianity’s Christmas celebrations begin in January.
Find out below why Orthodox Christmas is celebrated this week and how the tradition originated.
When do people in Ukraine celebrate Christmas?
In Ukraine, people traditionally celebrate Christmas from January 6, which is Christmas Eve, according to the Julian calendar, until the Feast of Epiphany, on January 19.
January 7 is considered to be Christmas Day.
However, both January 7 and December 25 are official holidays in Ukraine, with 44 per cent of people celebrating Christmas according to the Gregorian calendar.
The Orthodox Church of Ukraine allowed its congregations to celebrate Christmas on December 25 for the first time last month, as reported by the BBC.
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Why does Ukraine celebrate Christmas in January?
Known as Epiphany, January 6 is an important day in the Orthodox Christian calendar.
Epiphany is known around the world as Theophany, Little Christmas, Three Kings’ Day, Reyes, and Baptism of Jesus, and the way it is celebrated differs between churches.
In Orthodox Christianity, the day celebrates the baptism of Jesus.
Many Orthodox Christians, including those living in Ukraine and Russia, celebrate Christmas on January 6 and January 7.
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This is because, in 1582, Orthodox churches rejected Pope Gregory’s proposition of a new Gregorian calendar, despite the majority of Christians accepting it, according to National Geographic.
So while many Western churches celebrate Christmas on December 25, following the Gregorian calendar, Eastern churches follow the Julian calendar, on which Christmas falls on January 7.
The use of two different calendars means that the Western churches and Eastern churches celebrate Christmas around 13 days apart.
Why did Russia propose a ceasefire now?
Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said: “Based on the fact that a large number of citizens professing Orthodoxy live in the combat areas, we call on the Ukrainian side to declare a cease-fire and give them the opportunity to attend services on Christmas Eve, as well as on the Day of the Nativity of Christ.”
But Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said: “The statement of the Russian Orthodox Church about the ‘Christmas Truce’ is a cynical trap and an element of propaganda.”
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How is Christmas celebrated in Ukraine?
On Christmas Eve, families will gather for a Holy Dinner, called Sviata Vecheria. There will be 12 dishes, which symbolise the 12 apostles, according to the Ukrainian government website.
Houses will be decorated with sheaves of wheat stalks that represent their ancestors’ spirits.
Children will go Christmas carolling and it is believed that the more carolers that visit a home, the more wealth and fortune it will receive during the year.
On January 7, Christmas Day, people go to church for Christmas prayer before visiting their relatives.
Children will also perform the nativity with puppet theatre and people attend community carnivals called Malanka.
The festive season ends on January 19, which marks the day that Jesus was baptised.