Posted by: U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt
Happy New Year, everyone! I was especially lucky to spend my first week back in Ukraine celebrating Christmas in Lviv. Lviv is always beautiful, but the snow-covered churches and Rynok made this trip especially memorable.
As someone who’d never had the chance to visit Lviv during the holidays, I found the level of activity amazing. Thousands gathered in the Rynok, with long lines for ice skating and to climb the tower of the Administrative building.
It reminded me a lot of the big Christmas markets I remember from our time in Vienna. A member of the Rada who joined me in walking around the old town introduced me to Ukrainians from all corners of the country — from Odesa, Slovyansk, Kyiv, and Kharkiv – who had gathered to celebrate in Lviv. It was a powerful demonstration of a united Ukraine.
I was moved to listen to Christmas carols in the Dominican Church, which would have been outlawed in the Stalin era, and enjoyed the many Vertep processions. Though the tradition of putting on Christmas plays is common across many countries, I didn’t realize how political the Vertep is, with its unique combination of humor, music, and irony. Later in the evening, I had the rare opportunity to join Mayor Sadovyi, friends, and colleagues for a traditional family Christmas dinner, where I had my first chance to taste kutia. It was delicious! Given how sweet it is, I can understand how it is a once-a-year treat.
Each of these many Christmas traditions exemplifies the pride and creativity that are unique to Ukraine’s national character, and I was glad to share in them with so many Ukrainians united by family, friendship, and tradition. It was a fitting start to what promises to be a historic year, and makes me even more optimistic about all that 2016 has in store for Ukraine.