The Christmas Truce

Picture

Painting by Angus McBride

On Christmas Eve of 1914, the German and British soldiers were hunkered down in trenches, separated by what was called “no man’s land;” the space between them where, should you enter, you would surely be shot.  In the darkness of the night, British soldiers recounted that they began to hear Christmas carols being sung by German soldiers.  The British responded with carols of their own, and back and forth they sang across the battlefield.  

In the morning, brave German soldiers entered “no man’s land” and crossed the ground between them.  The British responded in kind, and gifts of chocolate, alcohol, food and cigarettes were shared.  They spent the day burying their dead, playing football, and just sharing in the joy of the Christmas holiday.  It is estimated that 100,000 soldiers participated in the unofficial cease fire.  

By Christmas-time of 1915 there were strong orders from leadership that fraternisation was prohibited and by 1916 the feelings of peace and camaraderie that once existed seemed to be lost.  

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To commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the Christmas Truce, our stake organized a Christmas Truce Program.  It was a public event, and included participation from other local churches and clergy.  


We took the kids, and they really enjoyed it.  The program included audience participation, fun historical songs along with traditional Christmas carols.  There were speakers who spoke and recited letters from actual historical accounts of soldiers there, and gave background to the event and the war.  It was an engaging combination of humor and emotion.  A young man sang “Oh Holy Night”, singing one verse each in German, French and English and it was the most moving performance of the song that I’ve ever heard.  

Eli especially was touched by the service.  He sat by Richard and was completely enchanted from the get go.  He listened carefully to each word that was spoken and just absorbed the powerful feelings that were there.  When it was over Richard and I both felt overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to live here and experience these things, for ourselves and our children. 

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I can’t imagine what it felt like to be a soldier then.  Everyone was hoping to be home by Christmas, no one thought the war would last that long. It must have been a welcome reprieve to relax for a day and open their hearts with love and kindness toward each other.  But then, the next morning, to resume the painful and destructive acts of war, to return to an existence full of fear and conflict, must have been such a drastic shift.  

But it gives me hope in humanity, that when given the freedom to do so, our souls long to connect with other humans, and express love and gratitude and friendship.  

And our eyes at last shall see him, 
Through his own redeeming love;
For that child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heav’n above,
And he leads his children on
To the place where he is gone. 

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