WWI Christmas Truce, Christmas Eve, 1914

by pawpaw

WWI was one of the bloodiest wars in history. Just months after its beginning, something miraculous happened. The war stopped. What occurred that evening, is absolutely amazing.

When I think of what was going on that Christmas Eve, in 1914, and what happened, it makes me wonder....what if? What if the soldiers had refused to fight anymore? What if the entire army of each nation laid down their weapons? What if peace was contagious? What if people lead nations instead of leaders?
We will never know the answers to these questions, but it is fun to ask them, and wonder.....what if?

The Trenches of WWI

The photo below shows the type of place that thousands of soldiers called home for 4 years, in the early 1900s, from 1914-1918. 

This is how the sides viewed each other until that evening in December of 1914. Each side trying it's best to kill as many on the other side as possible. During war, it makes it easier to kill them, if you can make the enemy less than human. Many find it also helps if you learn to hate them. Those types of conditions make what happened next even more amazing. 

British Soldier in a Trench, 1916
British Soldier in a Trench, 1916

It Started With Singing.

Invariably, even during war. on a holiday like Christmas, people will still want to celebrate to holiday  and do what they did "back home". Singing is an important part of of Christmas celebrations, just about anywhere in the world the holiday is celebrated. 

Who started to sing first, can not be known for sure, but singing began in both trenches. I can imagine that it would be pretty hard for a person to shoot another person while they were singing a Christmas Carol. 

It is important to note that many times, the trenches were so close together, that you could actually talk to your enemy. This made it possible to hear what they were singing, and I'm sure that sometimes both sides must have sang together. Then at some point, they began to shout at each other, and feelings of hate somehow began to give way to recognition that they had so much in common. The same religion, love of family, love of nation, and love of their fellow soldiers. 

Along the Western Front, there wasn't a truce everywhere, and in some cases, it was more of an agreement to not shoot at each other for a short time, while each side gathered their dead. The area between the the trenches was called no man's land, and if you got shot out there, you could lay there from a long time, whether you were dead or not.   

A Huge Step of Faith.

It takes enormous courage to fight in a war, and face death on a daily basis. I could help but think about the first person who had the courage to stand up, and trust "the enemy" with their life. Somebody had to be first. And what a moment that must have been, when that first soldier stood up, and nobody fired. Then he began to walk toward the enemy's trench. Then another stood up. Then some from both sides began to stand and walk into no man's land. What a huge leap of faith it was, and by taking it, a war stopped. It didn't stop for long, and once it began again, it would rage for another four years, but on that Christmas Eve, in 1914, it stopped for two days.

Ordinary men decided not to fight. A few exchanged gifts, they told stories, they showed photos of their families, and for a short time, there was no killing in some places along the trenches. They also took the time to respectfully recover the bodies of their fallen comrades. 

There were other attempt at truces, but none of them were as successful as the one in 1914. 

No Man's Land

German and British Soldiers December 26, 1914
Soldiers in No Man's Land
Soldiers in No Man's Land

If you would like to know more about the Christmas truce, the film Joyeux Noel, made in 2006 was made based on this interesting day during World War One. 

The movie gives a good look at everyday life during the war, and in it, during the truce, soldiers play soccer (football), drink champagne, and look at each others photos of family.

The movie has good rating from those who have purchased it, with 4.7 out of 5 stars.

A Book on the Subject

Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting

Two-time Newbery Honor Book author Jim Murphy writes a stunning nonfiction masterpiece about a Christmas miracle on the Western Front during World War I.On July 29th 1914, the w...

View on Amazon

Updated: 05/06/2013, pawpaw
 
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pawpaw on 06/24/2014

We can always hope.

Kari on 06/23/2014

I first found out about the truce via a song called Belleau Wood by Garth Brooks. After doing some research on it, I was both pleasantly shocked and touched. I'm glad more people are learning about it, and hope maybe that knowledge could cause something similar in the future. I doubt it will, but it's a nice thought anyway.

pawpaw on 05/02/2013

Yes, I think I would like to see the movie too.

PeggyHazelwood on 05/02/2013

I had heard of this truce but now really want to read more about and watch the movie. Thanks for this introduction to the World War I Christmas truce.

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