FYI December 24, 2017


1914 – World War I: The “Christmas truce” begins.
The Christmas truce (German: Weihnachtsfrieden; French: Trêve de Noël) refers to a series of widespread but unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front of World War I around Christmas 1914.

In the week leading up to the 25th, French, German, and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. In some areas, men from both sides ventured into no man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs. There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps, while several meetings ended in carol-singing. Men played games of football (soccer) with one another, giving one of the most memorable images of the truce. Peaceful behavior was not ubiquitous; fighting continued in some sectors, while in others the sides settled on little more than arrangements to recover bodies.

The following year, a few units arranged ceasefires but the truces were not nearly as widespread as in 1914; this was, in part, due to strongly worded orders from the high commands of both sides prohibiting fraternisation. Soldiers were no longer amenable to truce by 1916. The war had become increasingly bitter after devastating human losses suffered during the battles of the Somme and Verdun, and the incorporation of poison gas.

The truces were not unique to the Christmas period, and reflected a growing mood of “live and let live”, where infantry close together would stop overtly aggressive behavior and often engage in small-scale fraternisation, engaging in conversation or bartering for cigarettes. In some sectors, there would be occasional ceasefires to allow soldiers to go between the lines and recover wounded or dead comrades, while in others, there would be a tacit agreement not to shoot while men rested, exercised or worked in full view of the enemy. The Christmas truces were particularly significant due to the number of men involved and the level of their participation—even in very peaceful sectors, dozens of men openly congregating in daylight was remarkable—and are often seen as a symbolic moment of peace and humanity amidst one of the most violent events of human history.

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1843 – Lydia Koidula, Estonian poet and playwright (d. 1886)
Lydia Emilie Florence Jannsen, (24 December [O.S. 12 December] 1843 – 11 August [O.S. 30 July] 1886), known by her pen name Lydia Koidula, was an Estonian poet. Her sobriquet means ‘Lydia of the Dawn’ in Estonian. It was given to her by the writer Carl Robert Jakobson. She is also frequently referred to as Koidulaulik – ‘Singer of the Dawn’.

In Estonia, like elsewhere in Europe, writing was not considered a suitable career for a respectable young lady in the mid-nineteenth-century. Koidula’s poetry and her newspaper work for her populist father, Johann Voldemar Jannsen (1819–1890) remained anonymous. In spite of this, she was a major literary figure, the founder of Estonian theatre, and closely allied to Carl Robert Jakobson (1841–1882), the influential radical and Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald (1803–1882), writer of the Estonian national epic, Kalevipoeg (The Son of Kalev).

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By NATALIE POMPILIO: Obituary project makes homicide victims more than just stats
Associated PressNow a new website is working to show that Darryl and victims like him are more than statistics. Since the Philadelphia Obituary Project went live in June, it has posted more than 30 in-depth obituaries of city homicide victims from the past 18 months.

“We want to talk about the lives of the people, not their deaths. To dignify them. To humanize them,” said Cletus Lyman, a city lawyer who has spent more than $10,000 to fund the project. “We want to complete the picture and show the community that we’re losing real people.”
 
 
 
 
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It has been a difficult year — politically, personally. Through it all, I have found solace in taking a more telescopic view — not merely on the short human timescale of my own life, looking back on having lived through a Communist dictatorship and having seen poems composed and scientific advances made under such tyrannical circumstances, but on far vaster scales of space and time.
 
 
 
 
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