SAINT Mykolai has paid a visit to dozens of Ukrainian children spending their first Christmas in Donegal.
December 19 is the most eagerly awaited day of the year for Ukrainian children. It is the day they hope their Santa Claus – Saint Mykolai – will leave them a present.
One lucky family he paid a visit to this year was Olga Merenis and her children Nika and Yehor.
In June, Olga and her family arrived in Letterkenny after fleeing Ukraine due to the war.
Unfortunately, Olga’s husband was not allowed to leave.
Although finding her feet was tough without her husband, it didn’t take her long to adapt to the Irish way of life.
With her children settling in well at Errigal College in Letterkenny, Olga wanted to try her hand at a traditional Irish Christmas this year.
With many differences between a traditional Irish Christmas and a traditional Ukrainian Christmas, Olga began taking notes on how the Irish celebrate the holiday.
Speaking to the Donegal News, Olga said she is looking forward to celebrating her first traditional Christmas in Ireland.
“I would like to buy a Christmas jumper and different Christmas accessories like a hat and scarf. I would also like to prepare some dishes like Christmas pudding. My family and I would like to try all the different kinds of Christmas pudding as there is such a wide range of flavours. I would also like to visit a local pub over Christmas as I heard it is a tradition along with attending some carol services,” she said.
In 2017 December 25 became a national holiday in Ukraine, however many Ukrainians celebrate Orthodox Christmas which is on January 7.
On Christmas Eve, January 6, Ukrainians gather together with their closest family members to prepare a Christmas dinner of 12 fasting dishes that symbolise 12 apostles.
The main tradition Ukrainians honour is the dish Kutia. It is usually prepared from boiled wheat and is generously seasoned with honey, poppy seeds, nuts and dried fruit. The dish is eaten on Christmas Eve to symbolise a good harvest and fair weather in the coming year.
Olga says she is planning on celebrating two Christmases this year and wants to show the Donegal locals the Ukrainian culture.
“I am planning on celebrating Orthodox Christmas here this year the same way I celebrate it in Ukraine. I would like to get my local friends involved to show them our tradition and throw a party. I would like to show them how our culture celebrates this holiday and prepare dishes like Kutia. I think that would be interesting for them,” she said.
However, before the Orthodox Christmas celebrations get under way many Ukrainians will be ringing in the New Year in Donegal.
Olga said she will be celebrating but not because she is happy about the holiday, instead she will be celebrating for new hope.
“The main wish of all Ukrainians is the end of the war so we can return to our country as soon as possible.
“We are going to celebrate the New Year for our children, to reassure them everything is fine and everything will be fine.
“The people living in Ukraine at the minute don’t have a normal life, they have no electricity, no water and there are no luxury cities there anymore.
“It is very difficult to celebrate this holiday but we are still going to do it to show that life goes on,” the mother-of-two said.