Lviv: A holiday fairy tale
The flowers lining the streets have been replaced with evergreen shrubs as Saint Nicholas walks through Rynok Square. People hammer away building wooden huts along the opera house walkway, the soon-to-be site of the Christmas market.
The holiday season has hit Lviv.
The full schedule of Lviv’s Christmas and New Year activities is yet to come out, but there will be activities like workshops, concerts, and markets near Rynok Square and the Lviv Opera House running mid-December well into January. There will also be the One Day Shop Lviv event featuring goods from Ukrainian designers and makers at the Lviv Art Palace on 16 December.
I’ve already had fun participating in traditional days of merriment including St. Catherine’s Day on 7 December, which celebrates unmarried women; St. Andrews Day on 13 December which includes a full day of jokes, games, and stories; and the upcoming St. Nicholas Day on 19 December – a celebration of giving and receiving gifts. This year is a special and notable one for Ukraine, which makes my time here even more memorable. For the first time, Christmas on both 25 December and 7 January will be acknowledged as stat holidays after parliament voted for the addition in November.
The transition into the holiday season in Lviv seems to be gradual, unlike my hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where as soon as Halloween decorations are taken down, the holiday ones go up. In Lviv, mid-November saw the construction of Rynok Square’s skating rink begin, taking a few weeks to complete. More and more vendors appear to set up each week at the souvenir market, preparing for people to stock up on gifts. And decorations around the city still slowly appear, like the green garland running along store fronts, creating the perfect photo op for those passing by.
In Winnipeg, I rely on the weather to put me in the holiday spirit. First comes the snow, then the freezing weather – that’s when I know Christmas and New Year is just around the corner. It’s different here though. I can’t rely on the familiar sight of snow to set my holiday mood, seeing as we only just had our first “major” snowfall, and with the warm weather, who knows if it will stay.
Though the weather in Lviv doesn’t trigger holiday feelings, I of course still feel the excitement of the holidays, perhaps even more so than at home. Here, the excitement comes from the decorated streets, the warming lamps outside popular nightspots allowing people to enjoy a drink outdoors, and the holiday menus that offer classics like mulled wine and gingerbread lattes. And to think this is all only the beginning. Will I be able to survive a month and a half of holiday celebrations? Thankfully I’ve been training for a few years – even in Canada my holiday celebrations continue into January, since Ukrainian Malanka parties extend the typical Western holiday traditions. But living here in Ukraine will be a new test, a new challenge of endurance. A challenge I gladly accept.
So here’s to the holiday season, old traditions, and new celebrations, and experiencing the charm of winter in Lviv.
Follow Kaitlin as she discovers Ukraine