Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas from Ukraine! С Рождеством!

So I have now officially spent my first Christmas in Ukraine! Classes ended at my school last Friday on Christmas Eve, and the kids were all so excited to begin the holiday season... I taught a 4th form class all 3 verses to Jingle Bells! And after they learned the english words, they sang the Russian version of the song to me!
Then they sang a Ukrainian New Year's song about a Christmas tree to me and demonstrated the dance to it :)
A bunch of kids stopped me in the hallway to take a picture in between classes.
  In Ukraine, they have a really intense holiday season. They celebrate New Years as Americans would celebrate Christmas, with a Christmas tree decorated with ornaments and lights and exchanging presents. The Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar, which is 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar, used in Europe and North America. Therefore the Ukrainians celebrate Christmas on January 7, 13 days later than the Catholic world and then they celebrate the Old New Year on January 13th. Russia and Ukraine officially switched to the western calendar after the 1917 Revolution. My school held a New Year's party in their auditorium on Friday and invited me to sit with all the parents in the back.

Several teachers put on a short play for the kids.
All the children dress up as if it was Halloween!
My little town also put up a big Christmas tree in the central plaza and had a little celebration on Christmas Eve. They sang a few of the same traditional Ukrainian Christmas carols and walked around the tree.

Cultural Moment: This is the first time that I have seen Christmas lights strung on a tree vertically instead of spiraled around the tree.
All the kids linked hands and walked around the tree.
For Christmas day, I traveled to meet up with a few other Peace Corps volunteers in Kharkiv. It was interesting to make new friends and hang out in the big city! We went to a pizza parlor for Christmas dinner, which was nice because it was American food :)

They served ice cubes!!! This is the first time that I've even seen ice cubes here!
My neighbor Alison! She only lives about 30 minutes away from my town.
Yes, this is a dog wearing a tracksuit. Dogs get cold too!
On Sunday, we walked around downtown Kharkiv and did a little bit of sightseeing. We walked down Pushinska Street, known for its famous shops and restaurants. This is one of the famous statues in Kharkiv.

This is a GIANT thermometer, hanging on the side of the building! Seeing a 3 story tall thermometer was almost the best part of my day... though of course it was in Celsius and not Fahrenheit haha.

We also passed the famous Philarmonic Theater along our journey, which also had a really cool monument of four musicians in front of it.

I am dwarfed by the statues!

Two of the other PCV's in my region, Ty and Tiago, stopped to conquer the last remaining bit of snow on the ground.

We also walked by Kharkiv's Dolphin Aquarium! We didn't pay the admission fee to go inside but the outside reminded me a lot of the Georgia Aquarium. i was sad that all the fountains were turned off for the winter, but I'm sure that place will be really cool to visit in the summer. And apparently you can pay to swim with the dolphins too, which would be really awesome!

You guessed it... Dolphin is a cognate.
What an awesome blowfish.
And now for the best part of the day.... we went to the Shevchenkov Park and saw the big Christmas tree in the city center, then went ice skating! I haven't gone ice skating for a few years, and certainly haven't been to an outdoor ice skating rink in forever! I always wanted to go ice skating in Centennial Olympic Park (in Atlanta) but never had the chance to go.

Alison being a superstar :)
Our Ukrainian friend Vadym.
I love ice skating!
Alison and her sitemate Tiago.
Ty showing off his skating skills.
The big Christmas tree reminds me of the one in Atlantic Station (in Atlanta) and the big one in Macy's Square in San Francisco! This plaza was filled with lots of holiday festivities, including some amusement park rides and GIANT Russian dolls. If we had more time, I was going to go take a ride on a llama. 

Gotta love the artsy-fartsy angle!
Little kids are so adorable on the baby roller-coasters.

A baby pony, I was too busy debating whether or not to go have a llama ride to remember to take a picture of it.

Look how big those Russian dolls are!
So now that American Christmas is over... the Ukrainian New Years Holiday is coming soon and I am traveling back to Kyiv to visit my host family for New Years next weekend! I can't wait to see Mama Sveta and maybe tour some of the holiday festivities in Kyiv, I have heard they also have a huge Christmas tree on display in Independence Square :)


Carol said...

I love living vicariously through your travels, dear girl. The sight of grey clouds sends a shiver down my spine. You are so brave and adventurous. We're sending you warm thoughts from Phoenix....

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