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Estonian soliders take time to celebrate Christmas

Conscripts attend a Christmas service at the Defence Forces Cemetery of Tallinn. Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016.
Conscripts attend a Christmas service at the Defence Forces Cemetery of Tallinn. Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. Source: (

While the majority conscripts were allowed home to spend the holidays with their loved ones, Estonian troops serving abroad took the time to celebrate Christmas over the weekend as well, complete with blood sausage and other staples of Estonian Christmas dinners and even Christmas cards sent by Canadian-Estonian schoolchildren.

The soldiers of ESTPLA-22, the infantry platoon stationed in Southern Lebanon as a part of the joint Finnish-Irish Battalion serving on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) peacekeeping mission in the region, celebrated Christmas on the 24th with a joint dinner that included blood sausage and other food sent there by the Estonian Defence Forces for the occasion, after which they were able to attend a midnight service and sing Christmas songs together with Finnish, Irish and Fijian peacekeepers, according to a defense forces press release.

"While we are more than 3,000 kilometers away from home during the holidays this year, Christmas is a more special time than usual for us in Lebanon," said Maj. Ivo Silbaum, commander of the defense forces' unit in Lebanon. "I'd like to thank the Estonian unit's families and loved ones, with whom we are together in our thoughts, but also our Irish and Finnish colleagues and the Canadian-Estonian schoolchildren whose Christmas cards were heartwarming."

Estonian soliders serving in Mali celebrated Christmas in the capital of Bamako with Estonian Honorary Consul Eva Diallo, together with whom they also feasted on Estonian food sent by the Estonian Defence Forces.

Back in Estonia, as many conscripts as possible were sent home to spend Christmas and New Year's Eve with family and loved ones. Unit commanders determined the start of the vacation, work shifts were staffed and the remainder of conscripts were allowed home on a scheduled basis. Smaller celebrations were also held within military units and on naval ships, and conscripts were given the opportunity to attend Christmas services and go to the movies and theater.

Other traditional holiday celebrations took place earlier this month as well, including festive officers' dinners and other events in which conscripts traditionally take part.

The battalion's own Christmas and New Year's Eve menus also traditionally offer more festive fare than usual, including staples such as blood sausage, sauerkraut and roast pork.

Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla

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