This week’s spots of cheer.

’Tis the season: Pictures of Christmas cheer from across the world

Sand art Santa Claus, cribs and carols, and a message from the pope about the plight of refugees – here are glimpses of Christmas celebrations from across the world.

“No one should feel there is no room for them on this earth,” Pope Francis said, as he highlighted the plight of refugees and migrants all over the world in his Christmas Eve Mass speech at the Vatican.

In Haryana’s Mewat, a unique women’s football revolution is taking root

In the Mewat Model Government School grounds on a relatively pleasant Tuesday afternoon, two teams in yellow and red square off for an hour on the pitch. On the sides, the girls are cheered on by the boys, who had once told them that this was their ground.

This was a year ago. Since then, the young women have improved considerably on the field and have garnered the respect of their peers. Eventually, the team from Punhana wins by a solitary goal as the girls in yellow rush to congratulate the goalscorer.

On this day however, everyone’s a winner.

Murshidabad can teach the rest of India how to restore heritage and market the past

The Murshidabad Heritage Society, composed of a group with their roots in the region, is dedicated to reviving the region’s past glory through restoration, conservation and educational outreach to promote heritage and spiritual tourism. It engages with conservation partners around the world to learn how best to maintain the architectural heritage, and since 2010, has been holding a two-day festival each winter to showcase heritage sites and conduct heritage seminars.

Meet Karachi’s female ‘Paxi’ drivers who brave harassment to ferry other women safely

Since March, women in Pakistan’s commercial hub have been able to hail the pink taxis – called Paxis – by phone, app or simply by flagging one down on the street. The women drivers say they have faced harassment from other road users, but will persevere with the service.

“This [harassment] that we face is the occupational hazard of this job,” said Shamina Bano, 43, a mother of grown-up sons and one of the drivers with the first ever gender-segregated taxi service. “It’s best to ignore such people, they will get used to sharing the roads with us!”

How a novice cook became one of India’s most popular food bloggers and a published author

When Iyer started Saffron Trail, it was still the early days of food blogging in India and only a handful of websites existed, including Sailu’s Food and Finely Chopped, she said. But these days, it is almost impossible to scroll through Facebook without coming across a three-minute video on making a quick chicken dinner or a beginner’s guide to frosting a cupcake.

After a year of blogging – during which time Saffron Trail’s audience continued to grow – Iyer was made an offer to create a cookbook. At the time, she decided against it but, in 2015, the opportunity to write a book came up again and this time she was ready. “I thought the time is right. I’ve been a food blogger for long enough and I wanted to add something else with my bio.”

By ditching chemicals, an arid village in Telangana turned lush green

There was a time when Enabavi was just another impoverished village in the arid plains of Warangal in Telangana, full of frustrated farmers, some of whom committed suicide to escape indebtedness and penury. But the tiny village of 52 households refused to give up and banded together to change their fate.

In 2006, Enabavi created agrarian history by becoming the first village in Telangana to be fully organic and entirely free of pesticides, fertilisers and genetically modified crops. Since then, thousands have visited Enabavi to draw inspiration from its sustainable lifestyle, which was crowned by an appearance on Satyamev Jayate, a popular TV talk show hosted by film star Aamir Khan.

2017 was not the perfect year for feminism in Tamil cinema, but it was a great beginning

From a time when even self-proclaimed feminist films needed to be propped up by famous male actors and elaborate back stories, Tamil cinema has come a long way in 2017.

It has been a year of many feminisms, of women and their stories insistently taking centre stage and demanding their space. It has been a period when filmmakers took note of the gaping holes they left of women’s stories. But more importantly, it has been a year when stories of women came to be accepted as financially viable. Star vehicles are no more aadavar mattum (men only).

Once a poster boy for rapid chess, India’s Vishy Anand blitzes his way into the frame again

The unexpected wins are fuel for the soul. It keeps you going at an age when many believe your time is up. It gives Anand the license to dream – and that is what makes this Rapid triumph so great.

Knowing Anand, this was probably not a statement to the ones that demanded he retire. Instead, this was probably a statement to himself. Who knows, somewhere unexpectedly, he just might find his best in 2018 too.

In pictures: Four new species of burrowing frogs discovered in the Western Ghats

Research on frogs species in the Western Ghats has grown in leaps and bounds over the past decade. Between the years 2006-’15, a total of 1,581 species of amphibians were described globally. Of these, 103 species were described from the Western Ghats region alone. In a span of 10 years, the number of amphibian species known in the Western Ghats has nearly doubled.

In Bengal’s waning industrial hub, a new initiative is helping promote meaningful cinema

Several attendees had travelled more than 40 km from the industrial outskirts for the programme and had to leave early to make it home before nightfall. As they made a rushed exit, they reaffirmed what members of the collective’s Asansol chapter had sensed during discussions with the area’s residents before the screenings– that there was an urgent, intense need for such an initiative.

Such alternative cinema can do more than just entertain, engage and inform – it also has the potential to solve some of the socio-economic problems in the region.

Centre approves Rs 100 crore project to tackle stubble burning in neighbouring states of Delhi

The project aims to counter adverse environmental impacts that arise from stubble burning, the Environment Ministry said in a statement. The ministry will undertake several technological interventions for timely management of crop residue. “Implementable and sustainable entrepreneurship models will be created in rural areas through upscaling successful initiatives and innovative ideas,” the statement added.

Burning the stubble of paddy crops has been one of the primary causes of air pollution.

United States military to enlist transgender people from January 1

The United States military will begin enlisting transgender people from January 1, 2018 following federal court orders, the Pentagon said on Friday. Federal appeals courts in Virginia and Washington had last week rejected the US administration’s request to put on hold orders by lower courts requiring the military to begin accepting transgender individuals from January 1.