♫ Christmas 1914 ♫

On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for the celebration of Christmas. The warring countries refused to create any official cease-fire, but on Christmas the soldiers in the trenches declared their own unofficial truce.

Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops fighting in World War I sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.

At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. Some Germans lit Christmas trees around their trenches, and there was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer. German Lieutenant Kurt Zehmisch recalled …

“How marvelously wonderful, yet how strange it was. The English officers felt the same way about it. Thus Christmas, the celebration of Love, managed to bring mortal enemies together as friends for a time.”

The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.

CHRISTMAS 1914
Mike Harding

Christmas Eve in 1914
Stars were burning, burning bright
And all along the Western Front
Guns were lying still and quiet.
Men lay dozing in the trenches,
In the cold and in the dark,
And far away behind the lines
A village dog began to bark.

Some lay thinking of their families,
Some sang songs while others were quiet
Rolling fags and playing brag
To while away that Christmas night.
But as they watched the German trenches
Something moved in No Man’s Land
And through the dark came a soldier
Carrying a white flag in his hand.

Then from both sides men came running,
Crossing into No Man’s Land,
Through the barbed-wire, mud and shell holes,
Shyly stood there shaking hands.
Fritz brought out cigars and brandy,
Tommy brought corned beef and fags,
Stood there talking, singing, laughing,
As the moon shone on No Man’s Land.

Christmas Day we all played football
In the mud of No Man’s Land;
Tommy brought some Christmas pudding,
Fritz brought out a German band.
When they beat us at football
We shared out all the grub and drink
And Fritz showed me a faded photo
Of a dark-haired girl back in Berlin.

For four days after no one fired,
Not one shot disturbed the night,
For old Fritz and Tommy Atkins
Both had lost the will to fight.
So they withdrew us from the trenches,
Sent us far behind the lines,
Sent fresh troops to take our places
And told the guns “Prepare to fire”.

And next night in 1914
Flares were burning, burning bright;
The message came along the trenches
Over the top we’re going tonight.
And the men stood waiting in the trenches,
Looking out across our football park,
And all along the Western Front
The Christmas guns began to bark.

37 thoughts on “♫ Christmas 1914 ♫

  1. Reblogged this on WordyNerdBird and commented:
    The story of the 1914 Christmas Truce is one that has always fascinated me and saddened me at the same time.

    I know they were all fighting for their country, and most of them were fighting for something they believed in, but it must have been strange if not incredibly difficult to go back to war and shooting at the men they’d befriended the day before.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Maybe if the UN would legislate no war on one day peryear, wecould sneak in more days until war was only allowed one day a year. And then no days a year. The citizens of earth would prefer that, and the “hawks” could hold their yearly war on some un That would be so much cleaner, don’t you think?inhabited island somewhere, after clearing off all the wildlife. And they could kill each other to their hearts content…

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s a thought. Another possibility is put women in charge … I’m not saying that women are necessarily less aggressive, but less likely to want to send their sons off to war. Women are more likely to talk you to death than to shoot at you.

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        • I might not have been enthused back in the 70s and 80s either, but more and more I’m displeased with the way men are running things and think it’s time for a change. If I were younger, I would love to get involved, maybe run for first a local office, then move up to a state office, and eventually a seat in Congress.

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          • You’re only 68. That’s not too old to start, though I might skip the local level. Senator sounds like a good entry level, you don’t have to do a damn thing to know how to sit there and do nothing–no different than the old boy’s network.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Well … if you really think so … the republican senator from my state is not up for re-election until 2022, so that gives me a couple of years to mount a campaign and raise some serious money … if I don’t fall apart completely before then!

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              • You won’t fall apart. You know inside you anything they can say about you is drivel. They are master of drivel, but you are a master of snark! I’d go for it, if I were you.
                Though you would have to discuss it with Chris and Natasha first. It would involve them too.

                Liked by 1 person

                • No, emotionally I would not fall apart … I can give back whatever is thrown at me. I meant physically. Oh, I would definitely have to do that … it would have to be a family decision, for sure! You’ve given me food for thought, though …

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  3. I’ve read about the Christmas Truce. The thing I find so terribly, terribly sad is that ‘it was never repeated’. If it had been, if the better side of humanity had been allowed to emerge, 2oth century history could have been so very different. :/

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, 20th century history might have been different if … if we learned the lessons history has to offer. But then, I think that could be said of every century. It seems that humans are incapable of learning from their mistakes. Sigh.

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        • That’s true … but, I think people forget, too. I remember as a child, hearing the stories of the Holocaust from my grandparents who had first-hand knowledge, and it was as real to me as it was to them … almost, anyway. But, as time passes, the next generation and the one after that … it’s just stories to them. And eventually, though we swore “We will never forget” … we do forget, or at least it’s just a page out of history, not much more. We become complacent, enamoured of our conveniences, not willing to rock the boat and perhaps make our own lives less convenient. Sigh. The Chinese believe that history is cyclic, and I’m beginning to think they are right.

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          • Not completely forgotten. I wasn’t born until the 50’s, but the Holocaust and the dropping of the atom bomb[s] on Japan still make me shiver at how…brutal we can be. Then again, I remember reading Exodus and watching a great many movies about the Holocaust that made it very real to me.
            You’re right though, I doubt the Offspring feels the same sense of horror and the teens growing up now?
            I think we have to /work/ at remembering. :/

            Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s no secret how much I like this record. The idea that man can stop the fighting, declare a truce and share with on who has just been an enemy shows me the will for peace is there. Now if only we can all decide not to fight unless our own Country is threatened, and stop using someone else’s back garden to do our killing peace might finally reign.
    Cwtch

    Liked by 3 people

    • It was at your mention, in fact, that I decided to play this one. Your words are well-spoken, but what, I wonder, does it take for people to stop fighting, even within their own country? It seems that more and more, people are angry … though I’m often unsure about what … and their solution is to fight. Human nature … bah!
      Cwtch

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    • Thanks, David, for suggesting this song. Like most North Americans, I think, few have heard it before. We are not supposed to look at war this way. War is for allowing aggression, not for flaunting humanity’s preference for peace.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a strange feeling that must have been, when they knew that had just been fighting, and would return right back to it afterward. For the men doing the fighting to just declare a temporary cease-fire really illustrates to me the power of Christmas. Peace On Earth.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. It’s amazing, Jan, that this Christmas truce in the trenches was not repeated for the rest of the war. It was a clear testament to their common humanity and faith. Today, as this planet faces an extinction event of our own making, all people need to dig deep within themselves and place the greatest value on the things that unite us.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree, John. I wonder if the 100+ years since then have changed the nature of humans? Materialism, consumerism … it seems to have made people blind to the troubles of others, made them greedy and arrogant. Not all, of course, but … more than I remember from 50-60 years ago. Sigh. I wish I held out more hope for humanity, but my well is running dry these days. Hey … in case I don’t chat with you in the next few days, You and Anne have a wonderful Christmas! I have been meaning to write to you all week, but obviously haven’t done it yet! Anyway, Merry Christmas, dear friend! 🎄

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