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Ukrainians prepare for bittersweet UK Christmas

[Press center3] time:2023-05-30 20:11:56 source:BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation) author:news click:88order

A family of Ukrainians preparing for their first festive period in exile say their celebrations will be bittersweet this year.

Kateryna Sheluntsova, an English teacher, moved to Arnside, Cumbria, with her mother and 84-year-old grandmother seven months ago.

The county is home to 568 refugees who moved as part of Homes for Ukraine scheme for those who fled war in their homeland.

The family, from the Zaporizhzhia region, say their traditional Christmas and New Year is different to that of their UK hosts - Anna and Tony Gorst - as they celebrate New Year first, then Christmas.

"In Ukraine the first holiday is on 19 December, St Nicholas Day [in Ukraine] and then we have New Year's Eve on 31 December, then on the 6 and 7 January we have Christmas," Ms Sheluntsova said.

"The 19 December is mostly for children but, in my opinion, New Year is the biggest one. Celebrating on 25 December only started a few years ago in Ukraine as we only recently got a holiday then.

"We will have a lot of parties this year and as well as joining Cumbrian parties, we will celebrate with our Ukrainian friends here for the first time on 25 December and then celebrate again at New Year and again in January," she added.

With the war continuing their thoughts will be with extended family in Ukraine who are facing missile strikes, power cuts and plunging temperatures.

Grandmother Angelina Retunskaia recounted happier times from her younger days.

"I don't remember anything about celebrating Christmas as a child as our family wasn't religious but I do remember New Year very well in 1949 and into the 1950s.

"When it was New Year's Eve children went to bed and their parents would decorate the tree with candles, the adults celebrated at night and drank a lot and in the morning the children would find their presents and saw the tree for the first time before going off to school or nursery for a party."

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