Estonian troops of the ESTPLA-24 platoon serving in a multinational Finnish-Irish battalion on the UNIFIL peacekeeping mission in Lebanon took time on Christmas Eve to celebrate the holiday with their Finnish colleagues.
The peacekeepers sat down to a Christmas meal on Christmas Eve, complete with traditional holiday foods sent from Estonia and Finland. Gifts sent by Santa Claus were handed out to the troops, and Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) members exchanged gifts among themselves as well, according to an EDF press release.
The Estonian troops also received holiday letters written in Estonian by children of the Toronto Estonian Supplementary Schools in Canada.
"I am writing to you from the Toronto Estonian House in Canada," wrote Anna Maria in one letter. "I learn Estonian here every Tuesday night. My father is from Estonia and my mother is from Finland, but I was born and raised in Canada. Best wishes to you, your family and your friends."
Sunday's dinner was preceded by a speech by Commander of the Irish-Finnish battalion Lt. Col. Neil Nolan and followed by live Christmas music played by a Finnish-Estonian ensemble.
Irish members of the battalion fulfilled the majority of peacekeeping duties on Sunday in order to allow their Estonian and Finnish colleagues to enjoy Christmas Eve, the day on which Christmas is traditionally celebrated in Estonia and Finland. In exchange, the Estonian and Finnish troops took on most duties on Monday so that their Irish colleagues could celebrate on Christmas Day.
Approximately 40 members of the EDF, including the infantry battalion ESTPLA-24, are currently serving on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) peacekeeping mission in Southern Lebanon as part of a multinational Irish-Finnish battalion.
Estonia has participated in the UNIFIL mission since May 2015.
Editor: Aili Vahtla