♫ Christmas 1914 ♫ (Annual Redux)

Christmas is exactly one week from today.  Here in the U.S., people are so divided, hatred seems to reign supreme and people cannot even seem to be civil to those who don’t agree with them.  It is no longer a nation that I recognize, and the divisions are sparking violence and threatening a war-like environment.  I thought … what better time than the present to re-play this song that I played last Christmas season?  Take a look, listen, and … think about it.  Maybe it’s time for a few of us to “carry that white flag”.

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Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare.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.

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.

26 thoughts on “♫ Christmas 1914 ♫ (Annual Redux)

  1. This song is so important to me as it shows even in war there are chances to show some humanity. A war that is often decided upon by a small group, sends people out who don’t really want to kill each other.. There must be another way and people coming together in friendship is a start. There’s no open warfare in America, is there a chance of a lasting peace?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, this song has a valuable lesson for everyone, I think. If those who decided to make war had to be in the trenches, there would be no more wars. The average soldier has no desire to kill, just a sense of duty to defend his nation. No, there is no open warfare in this nation … yet, at least. But a chance for a lasting peace … sigh … I just don’t see it happening, surely not in mine or yours lifetimes. As bad as things are now, I think they will have to get even worse before they will get better.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It certainly is! I get teary-eyed every time I see this video. If the people who decide to declare the wars had to fight in the trenches, there would be no more wars. I somehow almost feel that we are in the midst of a war in this country today, one declared by people who are safe from the consequences, or at least believe they are.


        • I have not seen the movie, but on reading your comment, I watched the trailer, which left me wanting to see the movie, and I found I can watch it for free on Amazon with my Prime membership, so I’ve added it to my watchlist! Thanks for the recommendation!


          • Jill, it is an interesting film technique that follows these two British soldiers who are on a mission to forewarn a regiment they are entering a trap. There are many brutally graphic scenes, but also some very touching ones, as well. Keith

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  2. Several times I have dealt with this topic in my English conversation courses here in Frankfurt, using recordings from the BBC and from the 1963 musical “Oh, what a lovely war!”

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  3. Love the story of the Christmas truce. It wasn’t likely to lead to peace, as some suggest, but it was a lovely outbreak of light in the darkness. Merry Christmas – and may 2021 be a year in which we learn to tolerate and respect others’ views.

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    • I’m so glad you liked it. No, it wasn’t going to lead to peace, but it gave hope that humanity still existed. It was, as you say, light in the darkness. I think we could use a bit of that today, both in your country and in mine. Let us hope for a far better 2021! Merry Christmas to you also, my friend!


  4. I thought you were going to say it plainly, in language any fifth grader would understand: Let’s call a truce between Democrats and Republicans, a time to remeet as friends, a time to rejoin broken families. Please, fellow Americans [sic, I am a Canadian] let us call a truce, at least temporarily. We need to remember, we all share this land.

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    • You have said it so much better than I did … better than I could. Yes, please let’s all remember we share this planet and we’re all in this together … let’s treat each other with kindness, not hate. Thank you, rg, for adding what I left out.


  5. That is a wonderful song – so good, in fact, that I included it in my Advent Calendar last Saturday. I’ve been a fan of Mike Harding ever since I saw him at the University Folk Club, many moons ago.

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