Nova Scotia

Ukrainian community enjoys traditions at Christmas celebration in Digby

Ukrainians in the Digby area celebrated their Christamas based on the Julian calendar at an event designed to bring the community together.

Event on Saturday drew around 200 people from surrounding areas

A number of people stand near long tables filled with food and gift items. Ukrainian and Canadian flags are in the background.
Organizer Diane Axent said about 200 people showed up for the Ukrainian Christmas potluck in Digby. (Submitted by Diane Axent)

Members of the Ukrainian community in Digby County took a day off from worrying about war in their homeland to celebrate Christmas and some treasured traditions. 

Many Ukrainians follow the Julian calendar, which celebrates Christmas Day on Jan. 7. 

About 200 people showed up on Saturday afternoon for a Ukrainian Christmas potluck in Digby, according to organizer Diane Axent.

Ukrainian Denys Saiechnikov, who immigrated to Nova Scotia in August, described the event as an "amazing experience."

Young man in brown hoodie on the left sits next to woman in pink jacket on the right.
Ukrainian immigrant Denys Saiechnikov, left, is shown with Diane Axent at the Ukrainian Christmas potluck in Digby on Saturday. (Submitted by Diane Axent)

He said Ukrainians from the area were enjoying their time together and many had brought their children.

"We talk with each other and it's so nice," Saiechnikov said. "Mostly people have been enjoying the time and we don't discuss about the war."

Saiechnikov said it was a traditional Christmas with people sharing food they cooked, including perogies and borscht, and chatting about things like their jobs and what they do in their free time.

Axent, a first-generation Ukrainian-Canadian, told CBC Radio's Mainstreet N.S. that she has been observing the holiday in Nova Scotia for over 40 years.

This year she decided to turn her family event into a community gathering with a little assistance from the provincial government, Axent said.

She said some of the people attending were refugees.

Axent said she has been helping some of the recent arrivals with resumés and finding jobs in the community.

The war remains an everyday presence in their lives, she said, but the event was a chance to put it aside for a short time and just celebrate being together.

"The purpose of today is to remember that this is their community now, and they're bringing into our community their tradition," she said.

A Santa Claus figure hugs a small child who is hugging him at the waist.
Milana Yukhykuk gets a hug from Santa Claus at the Ukrainian Christmas potluck in Digby. (Submitted by Diane Axent)

Axent said the event was also a chance for people to exchange contacts and have conversations.

According to Axent, Saturday's celebration marked a new tradition and she was honoured to be part of it.

She said her 85-year-old uncle, George, lives in Winnipeg and he was moved to tears when he heard about the event.

He told her Canadians welcomed the family into their homes and their country 75 years ago and she was doing the same for others now.



Vernon Ramesar


Vernon Ramesar is a reporter and video and radio journalist originally based in Trinidad. He now lives in Halifax.