Christmas Peace

Part of a series on the traditions of Christmas

One remarkable tale of Christmas is the day peace broke out in 1914. By Christmas of that year fighting on the Western Front in World War One had claimed one million casualties. Those still alive were living in rat-infested trenches.

On Christmas Eve the sky was clear and the night was crisp and fresh. Lights appeared from the German trenches and the allied soldiers thought an attack was imminent. But the Germans raised their voices not their weapons and started singing. The carol Stille Nacht reached the Allied trenches, which they recognised as Silent Night. The lights were small Christmas trees the German soldiers had set up.

Without authorisation soldiers started climbing out of the trenches and wandering into no-man’s land. Enemies ate and drank together. Some British infantrymen ate their Christmas dinner in German trenches. Others joined forces with the enemy to bury their dead. A game of football started, though it’s not recorded who won.

Unfortunately the soldiers’ humanity alarmed their leaders and both sides prevented a repeat of the Christmas truce in the years that followed. But the idea that the peace and goodwill of Christmas could even bring a pause to a war is a remarkable testimony to the power of this season.

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