The Christmas Truce of 1914
Sometimes the best Christmas gifts are not ones which can be wrapped in paper and tied with ribbons. And sometimes they touch the heart MORE than items we hold in our hands.
It happened during World War I. Allied troops-- Great Britain, France and the then-Russian Empire-- were fighting German troops in trench warfare on The Western Front. Trenches for opposing sides were in close proximity; in fact, soldiers on opposing sides could and did shout to one another.
Between these deep ditches was an expanse of ground called No Man’s Land where half an hour each day, a truce was called. Each side then could enter and collect their dead for burial.
Early in December of 1914, soldiers on each side began shouting friendly greetings to their enemies. They were tired of the war and began asking one another about football leagues and world news. They even bartered for tobacco. This alarmed the commanding officers.
On Christmas Eve, a British soldier noticed lights (candles) from Christmas trees coming from the German trenches. Then German fighters began singing Silent Night. The British politely applauded, then responded with The First Noel.
Later, a British soldier cautiously peeked above the parapet to see what was happening. What he saw was astounding: German soldiers were waving a white flag and approaching unarmed, seeking a truce!
A cautious yet friendly handshake was given in No Man’s Land, and that was the beginning of the unusual Christmas celebration. Both sides left their trenches and happily exchanged gifts of food and tobacco, as well as buttons and hats. One barber gave his enemy a haircut. Worship services were held, and enemies buried their dead. Someone produced a ball and a friendly game of kick-about ensued.
A British soldier later wrote, “This experience had been the most practical demonstration I have seen of peace on earth and goodwill towards men.”
In St. Yves, Belgium today, a cross that has been erected to commemorate the site of this unusual Christmas celebration. It is inscribed, 1914-- The Khaki Chum’s(sic) Christmas Truce-- 1999-- 85 Years-- Lest We Forget
What about you? Any observations on Christmas this year? Feel free to comment below.