Review 15:12 20 Dec 2022

Invincible Christmas trees: how Ukrainian cities prepare for holidays despite war

russia failed to turn into the Grinch in Ukraine and steal Christmas and winter holidays from us. Despite everything, Ukrainians find light — from generators, bicycles, and batteries — and "light" holiday trees all over the country. Rubryka tells about Christmas trees of victory, Christmas trees of free people, Christmas trees underground — with faith in Ukrainians.

What is the problem?

russia continues to terrorize Ukrainians, shelling critical infrastructure and civilians, still occupying part of the territories and population, continuing its war of aggression. But despite this, the holidays are approaching. Back in November, Ukrainians began discussing the advisability of installing Christmas trees in cities — opinions were divided then. But, as usual, the Ukrainians found a solution.

What is the solution?

The russians will not steal our holidays and the light inside. The traditional attributes of the New Year and Christmas are not about a banquet amid the plague but about an internal resource, which Ukrainians now very much need to withstand the onslaught. The enemy wants darkness and despair for us, but they will not get it.


And although against the background of blackouts, many Ukrainian cities refused to install Christmas trees and holiday illuminations, others approached this issue creatively and did not allow putin to become the thief of Christmas.


We are talking about Ukrainian Christmas trees-2022 and what solutions have been found in different cities of Ukraine.

How does it work?

Kyiv: Christmas tree of invincibility

Ялинки незламності: як українські міста готуються до свят попри війну

In Kyiv, the main Christmas tree — the Tree of Invincibility — appeared in mid-December. As always, on Sofia Square, but this year the tree is much smaller than in previous years, and there is no holiday fair around (instead of the latter, points for recharging gadgets are installed on the square). Instead of bright illumination, there is hope and gratitude: the Christmas tree was decorated with balls with flags of countries supporting Ukraine, doves of peace, and energy-saving garlands. A generator provides light to them. And the top of the Christmas tree is decorated with the coat of arms of Ukraine.

According to the mayor of the capital Vitali Klitschko, he discussed the practicality of celebrating the New Year in Kyiv with the military who are on the front lines. "And one of the guys said: "Why will my child be without a Christmas tree, without a New Year, without a New Year's mood?" Klitschko recounted the conversation. So the city administration decided: this year, the country's main Christmas tree will be similar to Ukrainians themselves — unbreakable, patriotic, and caring for others.

Ялинки незламності: як українські міста готуються до свят попри війну

Since the beginning of December, you can admire a miniature copy of the country's main Christmas tree, located near the Kyiv History Museum

However, the children of Kyiv will not be left without entertainment. The recreation park "Zymova Kraina" (Winter Country — ed.) was opened for them on the territory of VDNG. Santa's Residence is located here; there is an ice rink, street attractions, a Christmas tree, and slides. This year's "Zymova Kraina" will be lit only by energy-saving lamps, and in the event of a lack of electricity, only those locations will work, the lighting and operation of which is possible with the help of diesel generators and alternative energy sources.

Ялинки незламності: як українські міста готуються до свят попри війну

And the traditional Christmas tree at VDNG was decorated with special toys. They were created by pupils of the art schools "Mosaic" and "Khudozhka." For children, the master class on making holiday decorations became another opportunity to break away from disturbing news and feel the fabulous mood of the winter holidays "from a peaceful life."

Ялинки незламності: як українські міста готуються до свят попри війну

They also decided to follow the Christmas tree tradition at the Kyiv railway station. But this year, the decorations on the Christmas tree are special — the illumination will work… from a bicycle. This is both a way to save electricity and an opportunity for passengers to stretch out a little by turning the pedals.

Lviv: the "hedgehog" Christmas tree

львів ялинка

In Lviv, the Christmas tree was "lit" in a traditional place — on Svobody Avenue near the Opera House. Mayor Andriy Sadovy noted that no additional funds were spent on arranging the festive location, and the illumination on the Christmas tree will be turned on only a few hours a day: from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. If there is no light on the avenue at this time, the Christmas tree will also remain in the dark.

The top of the tree was decorated with a stylized anti-tank hedgehog. The weight of the "decoration" is 1.3 kg, and the size is 1.2 m. By the way, one of the enterprises gave the city a New Year's tree. The Christmas tree grew on the heating line, and its roots began to destroy the networks, so they decided to cut it down.

The city administration hesitated until the end on whether to put up a Christmas tree in the city this year during a full-scale war. But after consulting with the military and psychologists, they still decided that a holiday tree was needed.

"The Christmas tree is a long-standing tradition, not just a festive decoration. And we put it up not to spite someone or in spite of it, but thanks to the fact that we have this opportunity and want to preserve at least part of the good memories for our children. They were robbed anyway; their childhood was stolen in all possible meanings," says Andriy Sadovy.

Chuhuyiv: a holiday on a free land

Ялинки незламності: як українські міста готуються до свят попри війну

At the beginning of the full-scale invasion of russian troops into Ukraine, almost half of the Chuhuiv District of Kharkiv Oblast — 128 settlements — came under occupation. Currently, communications are being restored in the liberated territories, preparations are being made for the onset of real frost, and condominiums are being provided with firewood. But they don't forget about the holidays either.

According to the head of Chuhuiv, Halyna Minaeva, a New Year's tree will be installed in the city despite the war. New Year's attributes will include luminous balloons and photo zones. The city hopes that the feeling of the holiday will improve the mood of the citizens and help support them.

"Today, when it comes to the New Year holidays, I believe that we should do it. Life goes on; it does not stop. I still remember 2014, when we went to the front in winter. The guys who fought literally on the very front line, in the premises where they were located, although half-ruined, there were attributes of the New Year's holidays. There was a Christmas tree. And this, in a special way, encourages and inspires," said Halyna Minayeva.

Kharkiv: light under the ground

Ялинки незламності: як українські міста готуються до свят попри війну

And in Kharkiv itself, the New Year's beauty moved underground this year. Here, the main Christmas tree was installed in the subway — for safety reasons.

"We understand that a brutal war is going on, and if earlier we decorated our beautiful Christmas tree on the largest square in Europe — Freedom Square, now it is impossible to do it. Therefore, they decided to decorate the Christmas tree at the metro station. It will be safe," Mayor Ihor Terekhov commented.

The height of the Christmas tree is only 5.5 meters, but that's not the most important thing. The main thing is that the holiday was in the city, and the russians did not manage to steal it from the children. Ihor Terekhov also announced that New Year's events for children and a small concert would be held in the subway. Entrance, of course, is free.

Kirovohrad region: 12 Christmas trees and the residence of Saint Nicholas

Ялинки незламності: як українські міста готуються до свят попри війну

Not one, but 12 Christmas trees were installed on the square in Kropyvnytskyi. They were dedicated to ten hero cities of Ukraine, the Armed Forces, and the volunteer movement. Christmas trees were decorated by city dwellers who found refuge in Kropyvnytskyi.

In Oleksandria, Kirovohrad region, the residence of Saint Nicholas will operate in the theater square.

"Our children worked hard all year, wrote letters to Nicholas, and are waiting for his gifts. We will decorate a Christmas tree for them in the theater's courtyard and prepare performances and sweets. There will be no loud entertainment this year, but we must remember our symbols. Like Easter eggs, on Easter, Leontovich's "Shchedryk" is for the New Year. It should be played. This is our culture," Mayor Serhiy Kuzmenko says.

According to Serhiy Kuzmenko, local entrepreneurs helped organize the New Year's holiday and buy gifts for the children. No money was allocated from the city budget.

Chernivtsi: folk Christmas tree

Ялинки незламності: як українські міста готуються до свят попри війну

And in Chernivtsi this year, they abandoned the traditional Christmas tree on the city's main square. However, they found an alternative: a smaller-than-usual "folk" Christmas tree is installed on Philharmonic Square and decorated with toys made by children. In addition, a traditional attribute of Ukrainian Christmas will be installed on the square — a 2.5-meter tall diduh.

The city mayor, Roman Klichuk, noted that the funds that were supposed to be allocated for creating a photo zone with the involvement of designers would be more practical to direct to the city's defense. But entrepreneurs also joined in creating the holiday in Chernivtsi: yes, they volunteered to set up Christmas attractions next to their coffee shops on Olga Kobylyanska pedestrian street.

Lutsk: patriotic Christmas tree trio

Ялинки незламності: як українські міста готуються до свят попри війну

In Lutsk, a trio of Christmas trees growing on the Theater Square is traditionally decorated for the Christmas holidays. Garlands and classic New Year's toys were decided to be postponed until peacetime, and in the meantime, as in many other cities of Ukraine, Christmas trees will be decorated with crafts made by local children:

"Our Christmas tree trio will be decorated with patriotic and spiritual decorations made by children and teachers of art institutions and community groups. None of the funds from the city budget will be spent on the above-mentioned purposes," the mayor's office decided.

Ivano-Frankivsk Region: "Victory Tree" and a live tree 


But in Ivano-Frankivsk, there will be no Christmas tree at all. Ivano-Frankivsk Mayor Ruslan Martsinkiv announced this on November 10. Instead of the central Christmas tree and ice rink in the regional center, the "Victory Tree" installation was installed, created from hundreds of children's drawings.

"350 patriotic drawings with coats of arms of de-occupied cities, guardian angels, Patron the dog, patriotic slogans radiate warmth and light. … Taking into account the saving of electricity, we plan to light the Christmas tree with garlands that alternative energy sources will power. So that the enemy did not steal Christmas from us, educators, together with schoolchildren, created an atmosphere of wonder for adults and children," said Ivano-Frankivsk Deputy Mayor Viktoriya Drotyanko.

Ялинки незламності: як українські міста готуються до свят попри війну

Christmas tree in Bohorodchany

A symbol of stability also appeared in Bohorodchany in the Ivano-Frankivsk region. Instead of the traditional New Year's tree, a live tree was planted in the city — as a memory of the year of our indomitability and our future victory.

Odesa: write a letter to St. Nicholas and the defenders of Ukraine

Ялинки незламності: як українські міста готуються до свят попри війну

And the residence of St. Nicholas has already opened in Odesa. It is located in the Odesa educational complex "Nadia," and anyone who wants to can visit it. There, children can write a letter to St. Nicholas, greetings and wishes to the Ukrainian defenders, as well as to children from the liberated cities of Ukraine.

"After all, right now, in the difficult time of war, it is essential for children to feel safe, comfortable, good, a fairy tale again, even if only for a short time. This is especially needed by the guests of our city, children from the hottest spots of Ukraine, whose families have found a home in a sincere and friendly Odesa," says the message of the educational complex.

In the complex, children are taught traditional Ukrainian carols, as well as master classes on making Christmas tree decorations, Christmas candles, and angels.

Mykolaiv: Christmas tree in military style

Ялинки незламності: як українські міста готуються до свят попри війну

And in nearby Mykolaiv, the role of the Christmas tree is played by St. Nicholas himself. Or rather, a monument to him. The city's patron saint was covered from shelling with sandbags back in the fall. On the eve of New Year's holidays, the protective structure of the monument was covered with six camouflage nets made by volunteers — that's how the "military Christmas tree" appeared. They will decorate the "tree" with balls and garlands. Such are the times, such are the solutions.

Sumshchyna: enemies will not destroy the holiday!

Сумщина: вороги свята не зіпсують!

In Trostyanka, Sumy Oblast, which was under russian occupation for a month at the beginning of the full-scale invasion, a Christmas tree has already been installed. Mayor Yuriy Bova announced this on his Facebook page.

"I have read and listened to the different opinions of many people about the Christmas tree. I prefer the position of most military personnel. There should be a joy for little Ukrainians. And no orcs will take away our children's feeling of the New Year. Therefore, for the children of Trostyanets, who have suffered enough from the occupiers, we will definitely install a Christmas tree in the center of our community!" — this is how the city mayor announced the city Christmas tree.

The mayor's message also states that the funds for the Christmas tree were not spent — all the decorations were preserved from last year.

Instead, the traditional Christmas tree will not be installed in Sumy this year. Oleksandr Lysenko, the head of the city, noted that the funds that should be spent on maintaining the Christmas tree would be directed to defense capabilities. But he added that live Christmas trees would be decorated near the theater, and he called on the residents of the community to join in decorating the Christmas trees and bring home-made decorations — which the people of Sumy did until December 15.

Poltava: Christmas tree of angels

Полтава: ялинка янголів

In Poltava, they decided not to put up the main Christmas tree but to continue a good charitable tradition: the "Angels' Christmas Tree" project. The essence of the project is that children write down their Christmas and New Year's wishes on paper figures of angels, which are used to decorate the Christmas tree in the "Kyiv" shopping center. Those willing to participate in charity remove a paper angel from the Christmas tree and fulfill children's wishes — they bring appropriate gifts under the Christmas tree. All gifts find their recipients through volunteers.

Even more helpful solutions!

There will be no loud celebrations and parties in Ukraine this year. There will be no mass festive events either. War brings many changes and sets priorities quite differently than peacetime. However, Ukrainians still find ways to share the light with each other.

Ялинки незламності: як українські міста готуються до свят попри війну

This is what a Christmas tree looks like, installed in an ordinary entrance of one of the Kyiv houses. One of the thousands of such Christmas trees throughout Ukraine. They are decorated by those who care, and all the little residents are invited to the opening. After all, our little ones cannot be left without a holiday. And Christmas cannot be left without light — even in a complete blackout. Even if that light only comes from within us.

This material was created by the online media outlet Rubryka within the framework of the "Ukrainian Rapid Response Fund" program, implemented by IREX, with the support of the US State Department. The content is the sole responsibility of the Rubryka online media outlet and does not necessarily reflect the views of IREX or the US State Department.



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