Ukraine’s Baptists Celebrate Christmas
Pastor Yurii Reshetnikov tells about the celebration of Christmas by Baptist communities in Ukraine.
The birthday of the Lord Jesus Christ is one of the greatest Christian holidays celebrated by Baptists. Due to the Baptists’principle of the autonomity of local communities, part of the Baptist communities in Ukraine celebrate this event on 25 December and another part on 7 January. Quite a lot of Baptist communities in Ukraine celebrate it twice a year, on 25 December and 7 January. The difference in dates is due to the fact that the vast majority of Christians around the world, in particular our Baptist fellow-believers, celebrate Christmas on 25 December, but in Ukraine Christmas is traditionally celebrated on 7 January.
There are local particularities regarding the celebration of Christmas in various Baptist communities of Ukraine. However, in general, it goes as follows.
The preparation for the celebration in the communities begins beforehand. They prepare the program for the celebratory service, which includes choir singing, sermons, solo numbers or performances by musical groups, orchestras, and so on. On Christmas Eve (24 December or 6 January, respectively), Baptist youth go out to carol. Caroling is seen as an opportunity to witness to people about Jesus Christ. Therefore, they sing songs glorifying Christ and his birth, recite similar poems, and give short sermons about the importance of Christ’s coming to Earth.
They wish the hosts a merry Christmas and a happy new year and God’s blessing. In addition, members of many fellowships visit orphanages, other children’s institutions, and so on. They organize celebratory programs for the children of these institutions and distribute Christmas gifts. In many families, the celebration begins with the common festive supper. Baptists do not have special ritual dishes associated with the celebration, but hostesses prepare a festive table.
The celebration is centered around the celebratory ceremonial services on 25 December and 7 January. Apart from members of the fellowship, unbelievers are also invited to the services. The sermons are about the nature of Jesus Christ as God and human being and the meaning of his birth and his sacrifice for the sins of men. In addition to the general service, on the following day many fellowships organize special services for children. They are accompanied with theatricals dedicated to Christmas events, performances of Sunday school pupils with singing and the reciting of poems, and so on. Children are told about the importance of this day. In addition to the children of the members of the fellowship, their friends are invited. At the end of the service, the children receive gifts. In general, in many Baptist families’ children receive gifts on Christmas day and not on New Year’s day.
Thus, the celebration of Christmas in the Baptist churches of Ukraine includes a rich program in which practically all members of the fellowship participate, regardless of age, and which is oriented not only towards Christians but also to people outside the church.
Yurii Reshetnikov, candidate of philosophical studies, pastor