by Britt Brundige 2003
The “great war” had been raging for nearly five months when Christmastime rolled around. For the soldiers on the front lines, their homes were deep trenches cut into the ground, filled with knee-deep sticky mud. Many soldiers on both sides of the battle lines were covered with it from head to toe.
Soldiers had to keep their heads low, because at all times the enemy snipers were watching, and would shoot at anything that appeared in their scope. The closer to Christmas it got, the more sporadic the rifle fire became, as if on both sides, they were simply ready for a break. On Christmas Eve. 1914 the first hard freeze settled over the ground, which was welcomed by the soldiers because at last the mud was solid.
Thoughts of the soldiers turned to their families, tucked away safely in their beds. The soldiers settled down in their bunks with letters from their loved ones, pictures, and if they were lucky, gifts. While the cold air blew in around them, they turned their faces into their coats, and tried to sleep.
In the early morning hours of December 25, a thick mist settled around them. It was hard to see from one side of “No Man’s Land” to the other. Suddenly a chorus of song broke the silence of the morning, and drifted up from the German trenches across the way. The startled allies were amazed to discover when they peeked their heads up to look, that the Germans had erected dozens of Christmas trees in their trenches, and had even decorated them. They listened in silence as the Germans sang “Silent Night.” Stille nacht, heilige nacht…
When the voices concluded and echoed away, applause rang out from the allies. The German singing had been lovely. The allies began a song of their own, and on through the night the soldiers from either side of the battlefield sang together. When dawn broke, the Germans called out to the allies, “Come over!” The allies responded, “You first!” and tentatively, officers from either side walked out over “No Man’s Land,” to greet each other. A ceasefire was called, and soldiers from both sides rose out of their trenches to meet these people whom they had just been trying to kill. Some of the people could communicate with words, but others who did not know the other side’s language made themselves understood as they gave each other gifts of cigarettes, clothing and food. They shared photographs of their families, and called each other “friend” for the rest of the day. They built bonfires which glowed well into the night.
Finally the long dreaded moment had come- time for each side to return to their trenches. The soldiers said goodbye to their new friends, and sank down into their muddy holes. With a heavy heart, the firing began again, and the war continued for four more years.
The Christmas truce was not an isolated incident. All along the battle lines, ceasefire was called by soldiers similar to the ones in the story above. Sometimes the truce lasted all the way until Boxing Day (Jan.6). Story written by Britt Brundige 2003
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6, KJV