The View From Here: The Days of Our Lives

Volodymyr Kish.

I would not be exaggerating in stating that I lead a busy life. Between my domestic responsibilities, my involvement in numerous Ukrainian organizations and endeavours, my hobbies and interests, and my many interactions with a wide circle of relatives and friends, it is a significant challenge to effectively manage my time and commitments.

To do so, I rely heavily on my Google calendar, a glance at which reveals very few days that don’t have multiple entries. To add to the challenge, my calendar also displays my wife’s calendar so that we can stay synchronized and avoid scheduling conflicts. Most of the meetings I attend, be they in person or by telecon, are automatically inserted into my Google calendar via e-mail attachments. On the digital front, there is also the built in Facebook calendar that reminds me of birthdays and community events. And of course, most of my creditors are quite efficient at sending me e-mail reminders of when my bills are due.

There are also the traditional printed calendars that I get each year from the credit union, the deli where I shop, the church, the municipal garbage and recycling calendar, the Milk calendar with its wonderful recipes, and in recent years, a variety of picture calendars created by various family members that feature cute pictures of my kinfolk gathered over the past year. Calendars of all kinds are part of the structure of my life.

Needless to say, it wasn’t always this way. For my peasant ancestors, there were only two calendars that really mattered. One was the internalized seasonal calendar they kept in their heads that told them when to plant, when to harvest and when they could rest and take it easy. The other was the church calendar, the keeper of which was the village priest, who reminded them every Sunday of upcoming Saint’s days, feasts, fasts and religious events of note. These two calendars dictated the rhythm and content of their lives.

Although technology, work patterns, society and values may have changed over the centuries, most of the days of our lives are still governed by calendars. Although the rapid pace and dynamics of our modern life styles create ever-changing, new and random events that need to be planned and tracked, most of our daily routines still revolve around regularly occurring annual events that change little through the course of our lives. We have birthdays, anniversaries, statutory and religious holidays such as Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, Canada Day and Remembrance Day. We have traditional, historical and cultural celebrations such as Mother’s Day, St. Valentine’s Day and Victoria Day.

For us Ukrainians, there is also an additional layer of recurring holidays, celebrations and commemorations, many of which go back to the earliest days of Ukrainian history. Ukrainian Christmas, New Year’s and Easter are usually celebrated on different days from the rest of the Western world due to the persistence of the scientifically archaic Julian calendar.

Then there are those events that are the legacy of our Ukrainian culture and traditions. In January, we have the Malanka new year celebrations and the Feast of Jordan or the Blessing of the Waters. In March we commemorate Taras Shevchenko’s Birthday. In the summer time we observe the Feast of Ivana Kupala, nominally a Ukrainian version of pagan summer solstice festivals. In Canada, we have for a long time had large Ukrainian festivals during the summer in most of our major cities, showcasing Ukrainian arts, music, food, and culture. The most famous of these are the festival in Dauphin, Manitoba, and the Toronto Ukrainian Festival, though there are other prominent ones in Ottawa, Montreal, Oshawa, Kingston, Saskatoon, Edmonton and other places. In August, we also celebrate the latest and hopefully permanent Ukrainian Independence Day. November has become dedicated to the commemoration of the tragedy of the Holodomor, shining a spotlight on Stalin’s genocide of Ukrainians by hunger.

And so our lives proceed day to day, month to month and year to year, framed by a rich series of events that bring colour, joy and meaning to our existence. This is the inevitable result of progress and the evolution of societies. Our prehistoric ancestors had little need of calendars aside from the natural seasonal cycles that constrained their activities and their lives. We are fortunate that our lives have been so enriched that we need increasingly more sophisticated calendars to help us manage this bounty of experiences.

SHARE