No one wants to be away from home on Christmas but unfortunate times arrive where we find ourselves attempting to celebrate out of sight from the place we love, absent from the ones we love. Our path may carry us just a short piece from our beloved spot of earth; and at other times, we find ourselves half a world away. Maybe, although not around our own tree, we are at least with those who attempt to make our Christmas merry and bright; even when only home and the ones we love can do so. Perhaps to get us through the day we find the solace in at least thinking, “maybe I will be home next year”, and sometimes the day is so bleak we are not sure if we will ever see another Christmas. Such is the case for those who are called into the realm of war and are alone on a battlefield with nothing more than the enemy with which to share the day. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Great War, the war to end all wars or maybe you call it World War I. Around August of 1914 the men sent to fight this war were forced to take a road that led them from their sacred piece of earth; but those who send men to war said, not to worry, you will be home before Christmas. It was not to be. December 25, 1914 came and found men not in their homes but amassed along an all but invisible line hunkered in an earthen bunker careful not to peer out lest they should receive the gift of their fate by way of an enemy’s bullet. On war torn Christmas days not all is calm, if the weary world rejoices, it is not there and the angel’s singing seems too far away to be heard. Familiar traditions of Christmas day are rendered obsolete, as the warmth of the fireplace has been traded for the heat of bombs dropping all around; the candle light is replaced with the flash of the howitzer as it closes in on their position. Celebration of the savior in song is replaced with unison prayers to just make it out alive. Bullets and bombs know not the time in which they fly and show no partiality of the day they reach their destination. It is man who decides the events of the calendar and days such as the joyous time of Christmas part not the tide of war. However, if you were ever in Mr. Gary Gill’s history class, perhaps you heard of the time, when on a battlefield 100 years ago this Christmas, seeds of peace were planted and bloomed a beautiful piece of human capability, even if for a brief spell, which man has not experienced since. Where, in the infertile land where nothing could survive, and death was most certain; the space of ground they called “No Man’s Land” became inhabited.
It was apparent to those brave men, from both sides along the western front, that the promise to be home for Christmas was only tasteless nectar meant to pacify the masses as they were marched into carnage. Therefore, the men who found themselves away from their homes, prepared for yet another day, another night, in the wet cold trenches they dug themselves. However, there was a day to be recognized, a purpose for which to make a situation special and reverent. As a result, out of a German trench, they shot across the scorched earth toward their enemy, silent night, holy night “stille nacht, heil’ge nacht” where upon British soldiers reciprocated by firing, at their counterpart, favorite carols of their own into the crisp French winter sky. Eventually, glad tidings and the goodwill toward men found quarter in the various trenches of the Western Front; and men began to stick their heads up from their burrows, into air reserved for flying tickets of death, only to find fresh air and the view of their enemy doing the same. In various parts of the Western Front men from the British Military met German men of the same occupation, in the middle of a war ravaged landscape to call a truce, to the killing, in the name of Christ and the day set aside to celebrate his birth. Men from both sides saluted each other; some even played games whereas some exchanged personal items and personal stories. Although a precious moment, the men could not escape their circumstance as ones whom they just shared a trench, lay dead on the battlefield from days before. As a result, funerals, which would not have been possible otherwise, were held as men recited the 23rd Psalm.
In the military, superiors give orders and the lower ranks follow without question. Yet, there were no orders to leave the trench and share a moment of amity with a man who fought under a different banner. Quite the contrary; the headquarters from both sides were furious at the learning of such a display. Orders were given to cease such activities as they could be seen as weakness and even treason. So on December 26, just as mercurial as the armistice began in each section of the Western Front, it uniquely ended. In one area, the men made their way back to their respective sides when one British soldier turned and fired three shots in the air. A German Captain then stood upon the parapet where upon he pulled out his firearm, shot two shots in the air; and the war was back on.
A Christmas truce never occurred again.
This article was made possible by information gathered from Gary Gill, Penny Cliff and the following
There are many other videos on youtube regarding the Christmas Truce which you are sure to enjoy.