Gather ’round everyone. We don’t have 10 Lords-a-Leaping for you (what even), but here’s your holiday history lesson on the 10th day of Sundaze!
One of my favorite Christmas stories isn’t Elf, or It’s a Wonderful Life (both movies I will be enjoying this holiday season), but a story from over one hundred years ago, in 1914. Christmas this year wasn’t the best for a few thousand men and their families, for they were away on the Western front in the trenches of northern France in the midst of World War I – while their families nervously worried if they would ever return. This was the first year of the war, and both the Allied and German armies were dug deep into muddy trenches, with only no-man’s land to separate them.
Now, no one is sure exactly how exactly things began, but on Christmas Eve, it is said that both sides could hear their enemies singing carols from their trenches. They would take turns, until the Allied army started “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and the German army sang along in their own native tongue. At daybreak on Christmas Day, it is said that the Germans emerged first from their trenches, greeting the Allies with “Merry Christmas.” Upon seeing that they were unarmed, the Allies joined them on no-man’s land. The two sides agreed to call for an unofficial truce, just for Christmas.
Allied and German soldiers gathered together to exchange cigarettes, food, tokens, and general comradery. It is even said that in some places along the front, the men played friendly, unorganized soccer games. This spread of peace and holiday spirit extended miles up and down the front line, and over two-thirds of the stationed soldiers (nearly 100,000 men) participated in this cease-fire. Many took this time to remove and bury their fallen comrades who had been killed during the heat of earlier battles, but had been left behind in no-man’s land.
However, this was not a declaration of peace – only a cease-fire. So hostilities resumed in most places the next day. In other areas, peace remained until New Year’s. However, it remains to this day the last time in a major war that a truce was declared for a holiday. This story reminds us that peace can always exist, even in the midst of war.
Also — I do suggest Joyeux Noel, a 2005 movie about this exact moment in history. Here’s the trailer: