Truce of 1914 exhibits meaning of the season

Published 2:41 pm Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The so-called “Christmas truce” began on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1914, during World War I, when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium, for Christmas. They began by placing candles on trees, and then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols. The British troops in the trenches across from them responded by singing English carols.

The two sides continued by shouting holiday greetings to each other.

Soon thereafter, there were calls for visits across the “No Man’s Land,” where small gifts were exchanged- whiskey, cigars and the like. The artillery in the region fell silent that night.

The truce also allowed a breathing spell where burial parties could bring recently fallen soldiers back behind their lines. Proper burials took place as soldiers from both sides mourned the dead together and paid their respect. At one funeral in No Man’s Land, soldiers from both sides gathered and read a passage from the 23rd Psalm.

The truce spread to other areas of the lines, and there is a perhaps mythical story of a football match between the opposing forces, which ended when the ball struck a strand of barbed wire and deflated. Letters home confirm the score of one game to be 3-2 in favor of Germany.

In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night, but in some areas, it continued until New Year’s Day.

The Christmas Truce has often been characterized as the last “twitch” of the nineteenth century, the last moment when, in war, two sides would meet each other in proper and mutual respect for one another; when they would greet each other with kindness to show that-in spite of the horrible turn of events that had unfolded-they were still honorable and respectful soldiers of war.

May this beautiful lesson of the magnanimous quality of the human spirit shine through in each and every one of us this Christmas season.

From all of us to all of you, Merry Christmas.

– Christmas truce source information: Wikipedia