Christmas History

The Christmas Truce

By Brenna Hall

Would you ever think that if you were in a war, trying to kill everyone that wasn’t on your side, that you would be friends with them for Christmas? That is how it was for some of the soldiers during World War I.

At one point during World War I, in 1914, there was a stalemate. The French, Belgians and British were trying to keep the Germans from going through France. Nobody could move, so to solve this problem they built trenches.

Trenches are a hole in the ground where the soldiers go in, so that they can shoot at the enemy in safety. In the trenches the soldiers would sometimes watch their very best friends getting killed. During all of this it rained, long and good, making lots of thick dirty mud surrounding them. The soldiers could never take a bath and so they were dirty, cold, wet and sick. Sometimes they would get stuck in the mud and they couldn’t get out. They would get their feet stuck and when they would be commanded to move they would put their hands in to try and get out and then they would get even more stuck.

The soldiers had no way to get water or to stretch unless one person from either side, usually in the morning, would hold up a board. As long as this board was up, the firing ceased and they could get out, fill their canteens and talk to each other. But when the board went down, if even so much as a hand was seen the firing would continue.

For Christmas the soldier’s families would send them clothes, blankets, medicine, rations, and letters to make them feel better. The British were sick, cold and surrounded by their dead friends in the trenches that Christmas night, in 1914. When the British saw on the German side that there were lights, the commanders of the British told them to watch the Germans and make sure that they weren’t being tricked. At times they would hear Germans laughing and celebrating.

Some time later one man from each side met in No Man’s land. No Man’s land is the place in the middle where nobody is. In No Man’s land they told each other, “We won’t shoot if you won’t.” The Germans sang one of their Christmas songs and then the British sang “The First Noel.” Then the Germans sang “O, Tannenbaum” It would keep going and then the British, the French and the Belgians sang “O Come All Ye Faithful” then, the Germans recognizing the tune sang the Latin words to it. This Christmas celebration went on for several days. The truce that they made was an unofficial truce.

During those days, both sides went to No Man’s land and gathered their dead bodies to bury them. Once one of the men provided a ball and both sides played soccer until the ball was deflated when it hit some barbed wire. The sides conversed and traded buttons and other little things for bits of food.

It is very amazing that these men were talking, celebrating and laughing with the men who earlier they were trying to kill. They forgave each other for just those brief days when they forgot all about being cold, wet, sick, hungry and angry to enjoy Christmas. Those brief days were enough to make them forget who their enemy was and have a good time in the midst of a war.

Father of 7, Grandfather of 7, husband of 1. Freelance writer, Major League baseball geek, aspiring Family Historian.

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