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.
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.