The Christmas Truce

In 1914, trench warfare of World War I was a brutal and unforgiving affair.  But on Christmas Eve, Allied soldiers and the German army put down their weapons and celebrated Christmas together.  It’s an act that continues to inspire and give hope during this special season.

Please learn more about the Christmas Truce at this site.

Some background:

THE “Christmas truce” is a term used to describe a series of unofficial cessations of hostilities that occurred along the Western Front during Christmas 1914. World War One had been raging for several months but German and Allied soldiers stepped out of their trenches, shook hands and agreed a truce so the dead could be buried. The soldiers also used that truce to chat with one another and, some claim, even play a football match. Unofficial truces between opposing forces occurred at other times during World War One but never on the scale of that first Christmas truce. Similar events have occurred in other conflicts throughout history – and continue to occur.

The proximity of the enemies also allowed men to shout out to their opponents or stick up signs on wooden boards. After a particularly heavy barrage of missiles or bullets, the soldiers might shout out “Missed” or “Left a bit”. (1) This black humour was to be the start of a ‘conversation’ between troops that would hasten the onset of a Christmas truce.

Another factor that assisted conditions for an unofficial truce between the men was the weather. For much of December it had been wet but on Christmas Eve the temperature dropped and a sharp frost enveloped the landscape. A ‘white Christmas’ as depicted on all traditional Christmas cards would provide the backdrop to one of the most remarkable Christmas stories in 2,000 years.

The shouting between troops turned into something more during Christmas Eve. Germans celebrate Christmas on December 24 more than they do on the day itself (in Britain and France, December 25 is the main day of celebration). It is on the 24th that the Germans have a large meal with family and ‘Father Christmas’ delivers his gifts. So on the Western Front on Christmas Eve, German soldiers began to sing carols and place Christmas trees lit with lanterns above the trenches. As a sub-altern told the Press Association (and it was then published in numerous UK newspapers): “Their trenches were a blaze of Christmas trees, and our sentries were regaled for hours with the traditional Christmas songs of the Fatherland. Their officers even expressed annoyance the next day that some of these trees had been fired on, insisting that they were part almost of the sacred rite.”

A ‘white Christmas’, singing of carols, shouts of good wishes across the trenches and the erection of illuminated deocrations: A truce which days earlier had seemed inconceivable was now all but inevitable.

So regardless of who is on the other side of your trench, we wish you glad tidings and the Merriest of Christmases.  Merry Christmas from TheLiberalOC.

  9 comments for “The Christmas Truce

  1. demmother
    December 24, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Thanks for the post, Dan.
    FYI this was made into a movie called ‘Joyeaux Noel’
    I am not sure of the spelling but it is a wonderful film, even if you have to read some of it because it is in English, French and German. Worth the cost of renting.

    • Bladerunner
      December 25, 2012 at 8:10 pm

      Joyeux Noel was indeed an excellent film. Denmother is right, well worth the cost of renting.

  2. Junior
    December 24, 2012 at 9:42 pm
  3. December 25, 2012 at 1:35 am

    Thank you Dan for the story, I enjoyed reading it and learning about The Christmas Truce, a remarkable act of kindness.

    Katherine

  4. Dan Chmielewski
    December 25, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Merry Christmas everyone!

  5. Mearl Hinckley
    December 28, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    This one’s better; and more accurate. The first Christmas truce occurred in Belgium, near Ypres. Not Belleau Wood.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJi41RWaTCs

    • December 28, 2012 at 4:22 pm

      Thanks! I find it a wonderful story. Can you imagine this happening today?

  6. Mearl Hinckley
    December 28, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    I don’t know whether it could happen again, but when I was a teenager we had a neighbor, a Brit, who’d been in one of the “Pals’ regiments and fought all through the war on the western front. He said the first few years of the war were bloody but “gentlemanly,” as the truce describes. All that changed and hardened, he said, when the Germans began using poison gas and were perceived by the Brits to be less than human.

  7. Francisco "Paco" Barragán
    December 29, 2012 at 7:25 am

    Thank you for sharing this!!!
    Merry Christmas and a great New Year to All!!!

Comments are closed.