1914 Christmas Truce Holds Special Significance Today

Nov 29, 2019

In the week prior to one Christmas during World War I, German troops began decorating their trenches and surrounding trees with candles and gathering to sing carols. The British troops took notice. Little did they know what was to come next.

About 100 years ago, on Christmas Eve, 1914, humanity trumped the priorities of battle during an unofficial truce between approximately 10,000 British and German troops. Soldiers yelled across the trench lines, down what was coined “No Man’s Land,” at the enemy. They exchanged pleasantries of goodwill in the Christmas spirit.

By the end of day, the sounds of war became silent and the troops joined together. As if no war existed, the groups exchanged food and even ate meals together.

The cease fire allowed each side to retrieve their fellow comrades whose lives had been cut short in battle. In an act of kindness, opposing soldiers came together to perform joint burial ceremonies.

Peace continued through Christmas Day. It was a joyous time for many who took pleasure in exchanging gifts of buttons, tobacco, alcohol, or souvenirs. As Christmas night drew to a close, these newfound companions sang Christmas carols, knowing their festivities would soon end and war would resume.

Despite the differences held between the opposing sides, human dignity took precedence over hatred. Thousands of people were able and willing to look beyond the divisiveness of war and embrace the love of human life, while celebrating Jesus in the true manner of Christmas.

During the years that followed, other cease fires were held during the Christmas season, though none as notable and as large as the one in 1914. As 2019 draws to an end, it serves as a fitting time for reflection.

This year has seen difficult times. Communities around the nation have experienced death, violence, crime, riots and protests. While this nation stands on principles like freedom of speech and freedom to uphold personal beliefs, we must also respect and value human life. Perhaps it’s time for our nation to agree to its own truce— regardless of current divisions that seem to fit neatly along racial lines.

If we strive to see the humanity in others that we either overtly or covertly oppose, then we too can mirror the kindness and respect the soldiers demonstrated more than 100 years ago. Perhaps we can take it further by deciding to permanently retreat from slurs, bias, blind partisanship, and allegiance to tattered mindsets that divide.

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