Traditional ‘second’ Christmas celebrated by Ukrainians in Bedford

Nadiya Mankovska, Inna Blanks and Rev Eric Lomax at the traditional 6 January celebrations (image: Dzhoan Dou)

Ukrainians in Bedford were able to traditionally celebrate Christmas on 6 January thanks to the help of Reverend Eric Lomax and PBIC, a local charity that helps immigrants.

In Ukraine, Christmas is celebrated on 25 December, in line with the Gregorian calendar and on 6 January, in line with the Julian calendar.

Many Ukrainians were forced to leave their homeland at the outbreak of the Russian invasion, so were unable to gather with friends and family in traditional celebrations in January.

However, Rev Eric Lomax stepped in and with the help of the team at PBIC, was able to arrange an event at the Church of St James in Biddenham

“Over the past six months, I have become close friends with a large number of Ukrainians,” said Rev Lomax.

“And I became very attached to them emotionally as if I feel their pain every time Kyiv and other cities are bombed. I really wanted to bring them joy in this difficult time, especially to please them by arranging a “second” Christmas when they used to celebrate in their home country.

“I really felt the presence of God with so many people gathered here.”

Among those that relocated to Bedford is the family of Sergei Tsymbal, who came from Nikolaev with his wife and three children.

Sergei Tsymbal and his wife (image: Dzhoan Dou)

“It is wonderful that despite the grief that all the people of Ukraine are now experiencing, we do not forget about such a great, bright holiday and can share our joy over the birth of Jesus Christ with each other,” said Sergei.

“Living in Ukraine, my family and I celebrated Christmas two times, on 25 December 25 and 7 January.

“Unfortunately, most Ukrainians could only celebrate Christmas with their loved ones in Ukraine online (and then only if the relatives had electricity at that time).

“Therefore, for many, it was extremely important to get together with their compatriots and feel the family atmosphere of the holiday.”

About 40 people gathered in the church and many Ukrainians came to the festivities in embroidered shirts including Nadiya Mankovska and her daughter.

Nadiya Mankovska with daughter (image: Dzhoan Dou)

“I am very grateful to the British for their support and love,” said Nadiya.

“Today I would like to share with them our culture, history and traditions, including the tradition of celebrating Christmas.

“I don’t agree with the conventional wisdom that the British are cold. They are incredible people!”

Ukrainian Inna Blanks has been living in the UK for over 16 years. According to her, the British and Ukrainians emphasise the meaning of Christmas differently.

“For the British, Christmas is primarily when the whole family gets together, exchanging gifts,” she said.

“It seems to me that Ukrainians remember more about the main component of this holiday – that it is, first of all, the birth of the Savior Jesus Christ. It is He who gives us hope for victory in the war, for the victory of good over evil.”

Additional reporting by Erica Roffe

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