Tis the Season for our favorite holiday stories! This one has been on my mind a lot this season as I've researched The Great War for my current book project.
Have you ever heard of the Christmas Truce? Honestly, I always thought it was a myth. How could it even be possible that enemies engulfed in brutal trench warfare would just put down their weapons and play football together?
After doing many hours of research about WWI this year, I decided I wanted to learn more about this supposed event. Even though this story does not feature in my book, it's still a fascinating slice of the era.
It DID take place! I know, I was amazed too. So what happened exactly?
On Christmas Eve 1914, German soldiers started singing Christmas carols in their trench and pulled out Christmas trees that they placed on their parapets. The British soldiers replied with their own Christmas carols. At some point, it was decided that the next morning no one would shoot. Around 10am on Christmas day, soldiers from both sides climbed out of their trenches and met in no man's land. They exchanged cigarettes and shared drinks, even tossed a ball around together.
That's a pretty crazy story considered the brutality and destruction of the war. But photographs, letters, and first hand accounts exist to prove this did in fact happen. There are a few important details to understand though about this Christmas miracle:
-It was not across the entire Western Front. Thousands of soldiers didn't suddenly emerge from their trenches and start partying. Instead, this took place only in part of the many mile long front line with an estimated 200 soldiers. In many other places along the line, fighting continued and soldiers died on Christmas.
-No one played an organized game of football. First hand accounts say that someone pulled a ball out and everyone just had a go kicking at it around.
-Temporary truces happened throughout the war. Generally these were declared for soldiers to repair trenches or collect the dead and wounded. As the war progressed, these were less common though.
So why am I super geeking out about this? It's not just the event itself, it's really what it represents that's so just darn fascinating.
World War I is often cited as the end of the long 19th century, the end of a certain kind of "innocence" almost. Advancements in technology and weaponry bogged the armies down into trenches as they learned a whole new way to wage war. The Christmas Truce can be seen as one of the very last acts of the previous rules of chivalry between between enemies.
I think it's also just a miraculous story, proof that beneath the horrible realities of war, humanity still exists. We can talk about the triumph of the Christmas spirit, brotherly love, and peace on earth in this amazing event. There's hope that through it all, even today, we can still come together in a spirit of understanding and friendship, even if it's just a small way.
Happy holidays, my friends! What is your favorite holiday story?