What Is Up with the Ukrainian Holiday Calendar?

Growing up, my family and I always referred to the Christian holidays as either “English Christmas” or “Ukrainian Christmas” and “English Easter” or “Ukrainian Easter.” The reason for this is because Christmas in Ukraine is celebrated on January 7, and Easter is frequently celebrated on a different day from the rest of the world. The Ukrainian Holiday Calendar is based on an ancient calendar system that is used by the Orthodox Christian church.

The Julian Calendar

Although the world moved to the Gregorian calendar—named after Pope Gregory XIII and introduced in 1582—some countries continued to use the old Julian calendar, which was developed by Julius Caesar in 46 BC. Ukraine was one of those countries.

The Julian calendar was intended to approximate the solar year, by calculating a year to be 365.25 days and compensating for that extra day every four years. However, the true solar year is actually 365.2425 days, so, under the Julian calendar, every 100 years or so, the year would be off by a full day. That is why the world moved to the Gregorian calendar, which became the standard calendar for most of the world.

Although Ukraine finally moved to the new Gregorian calendar from a civic perspective in 1918, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church continues to adhere to the Julian calendar when calculating feast days and Christian holidays and celebrations. For this reason, Christmas falls on January 7, New Year’s Day on January 14 and Easter frequently in a completely different month. Other Christian feast days are also delayed by 13 days. For example, “Epiphany” or “Little Christmas” falls on January 6 on the Gregorian calendar and on January 19 on the Julian calendar.

The Ukrainian Holiday Calendar

What is nice for Ukrainians is that sometimes both the Gregorian and the Julian holidays are National Holidays and are days off work! As a result, Ukrainians get to celebrate (party anyone?!) twice for Christmas and for New Year’s Day. Below is a list of all of the Ukrainian civic holidays and Christian holidays that can be found on the Ukrainian holiday calendar:

January 1 New Year’s Day National Holiday
January 7 Orthodox Christmas National Holiday
January 8 Orthodox Christmas National Holiday
January 14 Orthodox New Year’s Day Observance
January 19 Orthodox Epiphany Observance
January 22 Ukrainian Unity Day Observance
March 8 International Women’s Day National Holiday
March 9 International Women’s Day National Holiday
Sunday Orthodox Easter Day National Holiday
Monday Orthodox Easter Monday National Holiday
April 30 Labour Day National Holiday
May 1 Labour Day National Holiday
May 9 Victory Day National Holiday
May (varies) Orthodox Pentecost National Holiday
May 27 Cultural Workers and Folk Artists Day
Kiev Day
June 28 Constitution Day National Holiday
June 29 Constitution Day National Holiday
July 28 Baptism of Kyivan Rus Observance
August 24 Independence Day National Holiday
October 14 Defenders’ Day National Holiday
October 15 Defenders’ Day National Holiday
December 19 St. Nicholas Day Observance
December 24 Christmas Eve National Holiday
December 25 Christmas Day National Holiday
December 31 New Year’s Eve National Holiday

Ukrainians are fortunate to have so many national holidays and celebration days. In future blogs, I will explore a few of these days, their significance, and talk about which days are typically celebrated in Canada and the United States.

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