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VILNIUS, Lithuania — Dozens of United States Special Operations forces are now in the Baltics to bolster the training and resolve of troops who are confronting a looming threat from Russia, and to enhance the Americans’ ability to detect Moscow’s shadowy efforts to destabilize the former Soviet republics, writes The New York Times.

choirEstonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir.    www.epcc.ee/en

mccainSenators John McCain, Amy Klobuchar and Lindsey Graham reaffirmed the importance of NATO and
highlighted the strong partnership with Estonia in meetings on December 27, with President Kaljulaid, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas and other Estonian leaders. Watch the interview here -
bit.ly/2hqGgW4

During the first two years of its e-residency project, which provides foreigners with the opportunity to register companies in Estonia and use other e-state services, Estonia already has 15,000 e-residents who have established more than 1,000 businesses. On the occasion of the second birthday of the program, the President of Estonia stressed the importance of the program in introducing Estonia to the world.

Riigikogu passed a bundle of tax amendments on Monday which were initiated by the new governing coalition and among other things will cancel a reduction in the social tax rate planned by the previous government, accelerate the hike in excise duties as well as introduce a new system of exemptions beginning in 2018.

soomaCome and get it! Come and EAT! At the feeder (linnu söögi/maja) is a rasva/tihane, (literally suet or fat chickadee, due to its love of those foods in winter, offered by human friends). They are the most common and curious birds in Estonia and have also adapted well to urban life. Its name in British English is the rather unfortunate Great tit, since "tit" has been perceived as one of its many calls. One of its lesser known Estonian nicknames, kikitiits proves the latter. (It doesn't meaning anything, but is simply mimicking a call.) And how far is "kikitiits" from "chickadee"? A mere 3 wingspans of separation. Come spring, tihased living in Estonia are thought to say: sitsi/kleit! sitsi/kleit! (chinz dress). Must be another imperative (käskiv kõneviis) for males of the species. There are over 40 different sounds and calls (häälitsused) in the repertoire of these sulelised (feathery friends). Sulg; suled = feather/(s). A friend you feed is a friend indeed. The rasvatihane was Estonia’s 2016 bird of the year. In a few days, that title will be passed on to the turtel/tuvi, the European turtle dove. (eoy.ee)    Photo: Kristi Rebane. Text: Riina Kindlam, Tallinn

markThe Christmas tree has certainly come a long way from its humble beginnings in Northern Europe around one millennium ago, writes Euronews on December 20, 2016.


Each year communities the world over seem to be getting funkier with their firs. These days many are only loosely based on trees at all.


Like many other Christian customs, the concept of the Christmas tree is a hybrid of several ancient traditions and rituals.

 

Pagan peoples of northern Europe used the branches of evergreens during the winter solstice to remind them of the coming spring; the Romans decorated temples with fir trees for the festival of saturnalia and Christians used the evergreen pines to symbolize eternal life with God.


Where and when was the first Xmas tree?


Believe it or not, this is a hotly contested title which has caused a tree tug-of-war between Tallinn in Estonia and Riga in Latvia. Tallinn claimed to have erected a tree in 1441 and Riga in 1510.

karuMagus uni (sweet slumber) is creeping up on this karu (bear) at the 11th annual Pipar/koogi/maania (Gingerbread mania) exhibition in Tallinn. It's carrying a kuusik (a forest of spruce trees) on its back.

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