Ukrainians in UAE celebrate Christmas tradition at Abu Dhabi event

Rizdvo, Ukrainian Christmas, takes place in Umm Al Emarat Park and aims to show the country's rich heritage

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The Ukrainian community in Abu Dhabi celebrated Christmas with a festive event on Saturday.

The gathering in Umm Al Emarat Park involved cherished traditions, workshops, carols and activities for all the family.

Rizdvo – Authentic Christmas Day in the Park took place from 4pm to 8.30pm, highlighting the rich cultural tapestry of the country. Rizdvo is the Ukrainian word for Christmas.

Children met Ukrainian Santa, or Sviatyi Mykolai, decorate festive treats, enjoyed Ukrainian Christmas songs, participated in craft workshops, and took in all the festive fun.

“Rizdvo is not just a Christmas celebration, it is a journey into the heart of Ukrainian traditions,” said Yevheniy Semenov, 29, a Ukrainian resident in Abu Dhabi of more than 10 years and vice president of the Ukrainian World Congress.

“Attendees enjoyed a magical experience filled with joy and laughter, as well as a chance to participate in various activities that showcase the beauty of Ukrainian customs,” said Mr Semenov, who said it is believed between 15,000 and 20,000 Ukrainians live in the UAE.

“From crafting traditional Christmas spiders and dolls to enjoying the melodic tunes of ‘koliada’ [festive songs], every element has been created to provide a truly authentic experience.”

Celebrating tradition amid conflict

It is the second wartime Christmas for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion in 2022. And this year the country is formally celebrating Christmas on December 25 rather than January 7.

The move from the Julian calendar, which Russia uses, to the western Gregorian calendar, represents a continued shift.

Mr Semenov said while the situation in Ukraine this December is not as severe as last year, it was important to remember there was a war going on.

“We need to keep our traditions and culture and preserve them,” he said. “That is what people in Ukraine are dying for.”

“Rizdvo is an opportunity to create lasting memories, share in the warmth of the season and embrace the magic of Ukrainian traditions.”

Updated: December 24, 2023, 8:27 AM