As Russian forces make strides outside Kupiansk, soldiers are gearing up to mark Christmas.
For the first time this year, many Ukrainian Orthodox Christians are set to celebrate Christmas on December 25.
Traditionally following the Julian calendar, shared with Russia, where Christmas is observed on January 7, Ukraine has made a significant shift.
It now celebrates Christmas according to the Western, or Gregorian, calendar used in its everyday life, marking another departure from Russian practices.
Christmas Eve services were attended by Orthodox Christians at Kyiv’s St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky changed the law in July, saying it allowed Ukrainians to “abandon the Russian heritage” of celebrating Christmas in January.
In a Christmas message issued on Sunday evening, Mr Zelensky said all Ukrainians were now together.
“We all celebrate Christmas together. On the same date, as one big family, as one nation, as one united country.”
In the capital Kyiv, married couple Lesia Shestakova, a Catholic, and Oleksandr Shestakov, who is Orthodox, are celebrating Christmas together.
The pair – who until now marked Christmas twice, with their respective parents – attended the Sunday morning service at the city’s Catholic cathedral (pictured above).
“There is finally a day in Ukraine which my husband and I can spend together in the cathedral and thank God that we are together, alive and in good health,” Lesia told Reuters news agency.
The Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), established in 2019 as an independent church, has shifted its Christmas celebration to December 25.
This change comes following its formal separation from the Russian Orthodox Church, a move triggered by Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine.
On Sunday, people across the country engaged in prayer and candle-lighting ceremonies.
In Lviv, a western city relatively untouched by the war, children adorned in traditional costumes sang carols and participated in joyful processions on the streets.
Children in Lviv don traditional Ukrainian attire, singing carols as part of the Christmas festivities.
In Kyiv, Ukraine, citizens come together to decorate a Christmas tree near Independence Square.
While the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) has attracted numerous worshippers in recent years, millions still adhere to the historically Russia-linked Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), choosing to celebrate Christmas on January 7.
In 2022, the UOC claims to have severed ties with Moscow due to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, although skepticism remains among many.
Notably, there are expected to be Ukrainians who choose to celebrate Christmas twice – the more, the merrier.