Ukrainian soldiers have released a touching video singing a compilation of Christmas songs including Frank Sinatra’s Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, and John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over).

The video features reworked lyrics including the lines “I won’t be home for Christmas” and “Happy Xmas (war is not over).”

Ukraine, invaded by Russia nearly two years ago, is celebrating Christmas on December 25 for the first time, jettisoning the traditional Orthodox date of January 7, which is feted in Russia, as a snub to Moscow.

In the southern Black Sea port of Odesa, churchgoers prayed and lit candles as priests in gold vestments held Christmas Eve service in the Cathedral of the Nativity, decorated with fir trees and a nativity scene.

“We believe that we really should celebrate Christmas with the whole world, far away, far away from Moscow. For me that's the new message now," said one smiling parishioner in Odesa, Olena, whose son is a medic on the front line.

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"We really want to celebrate in a new way. This is a holiday with the whole of Ukraine, with our independent Ukraine. This is very important for us," she told AFP.

The date change – moving away from the Julian calendar favoured by the Orthodox Church – is part of moves since the invasion to remove traces of the Russian and Soviet empires, AFP reports.

“All Ukrainians are together,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a Christmas message released Sunday evening.

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“We all celebrate Christmas together. On the same date, as one big family, as one nation, as one united country.”

The Ukrainian military said that it had shot down 28 of the 31 drones that Russia launched on Christmas day at its neighbour, with no casualties reported.

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