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Fight like a man

For nearly 80 years, it was dismissed as a folktale. A budding journalist in a male-dominated field, Dorothy Lawrence was nineteen years old, British, and the year was 1915. The way to break through the glass ceiling, she had decided, would be to cover the war, and the only way to do that was to get close to it. The only way she could do that, the young woman reckoned, was to pose as a soldier.

The story was uncovered when Britisher Richard Bennett began a family history project and spoke to his grandfather, who had given Dorothy a soldier's uniform to help her pass. Thus outfitted -- and with padding on her back and her breasts taped down -- she rode a bicycle to within 400 yards of the front lines, where she had gotten a job with a mine-laying company. She was constantly under fire, wracked by fears that she would be found out, and slept in an abandoned, unheated cottage in a nearby forest. After 10 days, suffering from chills and rheumatism, she turned herself in to the commanding sergeant rather than risk being discovered in the army hospital. She was promptly arrested and interrogated.

At first they thought she was a "camp follower" -- a prostitute. When they discovered her true ambitions, the story was suppressed, for fear it would encourage other women to try the same thing. She swore she wouldn't write about her experiences, and when she did finally send a story to be published, it was censored by the Ministry of Defense. Her story ends sadly, incarcerated in a mental hospital some years later, where she would spend the rest of her life.

She was the only Englishwoman to experience combat in World War I -- so why haven't more people heard of her?

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
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Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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