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Christmas Truce of 1914: The Most Miraculous Christmas Eve in History

This is a story of how Christmas managed to bring enemies together as friends for a time.

How could we resist wishing each other a Merry Christmas, even though we might be at each others throats immediately afterwards? (quoted from Private Heath’s letter)

On the Christmas Eve of 1914, in the middle of fierce battle, the British and German troop stood face to face in trenches divided by “No Man’s Land”. Soon their hands went out and tightened in the grip of friendship. That night, not a shot was made. All is calm. Violating order, soldiers from both sides put down their weapon, sang Christmas carols together, exchanged gifts and helped bury each other’s dead. It was the most memorable Christmas Eve in history.

Christmas truce memorial. mage via Wikipedia

Cessation of hostilities on Christmas Eve and Christmas day during the war is known as “Christmas truce”. The event occurred in 1914 between the British and German stationed along the dreaded Western Front was the first to occur during World War I.

 

Situation in the trenches. Image via Wikipedia

The war had been going on for one year and nearly a million had died. The trenches were poorly constructed and in bad winter weather of 1914, it were flooded and turned into mud holes. The soldiers wallowed in freezing mud and decaying bodies. They were miserable and can help but feeling sympathy for each other. As Christmas approached, they started remembering the warmth of their home and love of families. The desire for a break in the fighting increased as well as the festive mood. This finally gave way for temporary peace.  After all, Christmas is a season of goodwill.

24 December 1914

 

 

British and German troops met in No-Man’s land. Image credit

The moment started when the German troops began singing O Stille Nacht (Silent Night) after they finished decorating their so-called Christmas tree and placing candles on the edge of their trenches. The British troop on the other side of the trenches responded by singing English carols. Applause was heard from both sides. The two sides then began exchanging Christmas greetings. The German soon called the British as “comrade”.

Signs were put out , “you no shoot, we no shoot” . So the party was up. The soldiers met in “no man’s land” to shake hands and drank together. Whisky, jams, chocolate were exchanged. That night, the artillery fell silent.

25 December 1914

It was a foggy cold Christmas morning. Songs continuously were sung.  With Christmas spirit on the air, the soldiers were running about on top of the trenches instead of keeping their head down in it. Invitations were made once again to visit the “no man’s land”.  The land soon became a playground. The parties played football. The German won 3-2.Exchange of gifts continued afterwards. Balaclavas, hats, buttons, tunics, smokes and autographs were exchanged. Soldiers who had been barbers before the war gave free haircut. A German juggler gave an impromptu. Many British and German were chatting in no-man’s land. Cigarettes were offered and photographs of family members were shown. Bodies of recently-fallen solders brought back behind their lines for proper burials. Some of the British helped the German bury a sniper.  

 

Veterans of World War met in the 2008 celebration of Christmas truce. Image credit

At night, each troop returned to the trenches to have dinner. Private Heath, in his letter said jokingly that :“…the gift of gifts was Christmas pudding. The sight of it made the Germans’ eyes grow wide with hungry wonder, and at the first bite of it they were our friends for ever. Given a sufficient quantity of Christmas puddings, every German in the trenches before ours would have surrendered”

With dinner served, came the end of the peace of Christmas truce.  The following day, as recorded by Captain Dunn, the medical officer in the Royal Welsh Fusilier, at 8.30, the British fired three shots in the air and put up a “Merry Christmas” flag. The German responded by put up a sheet that said “thank you”. Both the British and the German captains bowed and saluted each other, then both went down to their respective trenches and the war officially began again.

With this weird situation, many soldiers started thinking and hoping that the war will be over in no time. But who knows, the war stretched out for four more years and claimed the life of more than 16 millions soldier and civilian.

 

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User Comments
  1. Patrick Bernauw

    On December 11, 2009 at 7:10 am


    For me, this is the most wonderful (true) Christmas story ever told… I’ve blogged it on my Historical Mysteries blog!

  2. ken bultman

    On December 11, 2009 at 8:04 am


    A story I recall but glad you posted it.. The memory should be dusted off every Christmas.

  3. Papa Sparks

    On December 11, 2009 at 9:27 am


    An amazing well-written story; thanks so much for sharing.

  4. cutedrishti8

    On December 11, 2009 at 9:47 am


    Thanks for sharing this amazing piece..

  5. Katien

    On December 11, 2009 at 12:22 pm


    It was a remarkable thing to happen in war, and it must have been dreadful that they had to continue fighting each other afterwards.

  6. Ruby Hawk

    On December 11, 2009 at 1:23 pm


    It was a heartbreaking episode because they started killing each other again and it continued for four years.What a tragedy.

  7. mkd1788

    On December 11, 2009 at 1:51 pm


    wonderful post…Christmas rocks!!!

  8. Marie Antoinette

    On December 11, 2009 at 2:06 pm


    I love Christmas and hate the stupidity of war.

  9. Lady Sunshine

    On December 11, 2009 at 2:39 pm


    Such a horrible tragedy that they had to kill each other again. Apparently Christmas wasn’t enough, since the war went on for 4 more years. Great write, Yovita.

  10. nobert soloria bermosa

    On December 11, 2009 at 3:46 pm


    im glad you shared this wonderful story

  11. PR Mace

    On December 11, 2009 at 8:30 pm


    A remarkable Christmas tale.

  12. Guy Hogan

    On December 11, 2009 at 8:46 pm


    I read about this and saw something on television. It still seems amazing.

  13. CA Johnson

    On December 11, 2009 at 8:51 pm


    This is a wonderful Christmas story. Thanks for sharing.

  14. valli

    On December 11, 2009 at 9:35 pm


    What a wonderful story!

  15. Shirley Shuler

    On December 11, 2009 at 9:48 pm


    Thanks for sharing this wonderful story, Yovita!

  16. Eunice Tan

    On December 11, 2009 at 11:19 pm


    Yes I remember this. Good story you bring here. Thanks.

  17. CHAN LEE PENG

    On December 11, 2009 at 11:46 pm


    This was a sad event, but I think every one of us can change the situation by behaving ourselves in terms of morale and etique.

  18. Jane Jane

    On December 12, 2009 at 9:17 am


    nice story. I\’m waiting for Christmas to come.

  19. Joshua Miguel

    On December 13, 2009 at 9:23 pm


    i hope this will be an inspiration to others countries who are still at war. nice post.

  20. metro7

    On December 14, 2009 at 5:04 am


    how touching true story and what a pity they had to kill each others again afterwards.thxs for the share.
    http://www.urlzy.com/50

  21. qasimdharamsy

    On December 14, 2009 at 12:13 pm


    well written…good…

  22. Joe Dorish

    On December 14, 2009 at 8:22 pm


    Great story, if only they could have continued the truce but unfortunately it’s not the men in the trenches who make such decisions but the idiot politicians who never have to freeze, fight and die.

  23. speckledlily

    On December 14, 2009 at 8:35 pm


    Nice Christmas story I ever heard! How I wish then that the truce would continue, but sad to say, they had to go on in their fighting.

    Thanks for sharing.

  24. Debra.

    On December 17, 2009 at 3:02 am


    A well written and moving story! Truly, one of the most miraculous moments of humanity!

  25. Kate Smedley

    On December 17, 2009 at 4:25 am


    An incredible story .. thanks for reminding us.

  26. Juancav

    On December 17, 2009 at 10:25 am


    Christmas miracle,was fulfilled: Peace on earth to men of goodwill.

  27. catlord

    On December 17, 2009 at 10:45 am


    Reminds me of that song, -cannot recall the title but it is of Snoopy and the Red Baron.

    Anyway, STUMBLED this! Good luck and blessings!

  28. Jamaicafest

    On December 17, 2009 at 11:38 am


    Fascinating story. A real tragedy that they went back to killing each other.

  29. jaysonv

    On December 18, 2009 at 10:35 am


    wow..nice post.. very interesting.

  30. Lauren Axelrod

    On December 18, 2009 at 10:56 am


    A modern war just like the Thirty Years War. Too much money spent and no plan. Interesting to see another side.

  31. Chris Stonecipher

    On December 21, 2009 at 7:25 pm


    I remember reading about this in a book of collection of essays by Henningway. The story is fascinating and you did a wonderful job of presenting it. Stumbled and bookmarked this on Digg.
    Merry Christmas,
    Chris

  32. catlord

    On December 21, 2009 at 8:11 pm


    Doggone it, -someone sent me a link to a music video which touches upon this very truce and re-enacts the truce and football (soccer) game they played… and now I lost the link…

    Anyway, still a great story!

  33. Saytan USA

    On December 25, 2009 at 6:53 am


    blame the leaders who you blindly follow. It takes soldiers following orders to fight a war. In ancient rome, abused armies would come home and kick the govt out. I dont want to see a military dictatorship, but its high time everyone in Congress went. Its also high time something happened to K street. Something ugly.

  34. fashion girl

    On January 7, 2010 at 6:57 am


    so many wars.. so much blood spilled over nothing…

  35. thuanynguyen

    On January 7, 2010 at 7:32 pm


    very well written, love the christmas… But hate the war..

  36. Popsiq

    On December 25, 2010 at 2:16 pm


    Odd that the incident was never repeated in that war, or any war since. Christmas may be a day of special rations and prezzies from home, but it’s no less a day for killing than any other.

    In the Great War the closest approximations of that spirit of ‘refusing to participate’, were the French mutiny of spring 1917 and the Russians leaving the front lines to go home later that same year.

    I like the latter-day paraphrase of the curerrently notable DADT – it’s DGDK – don’t go, don’t kill.

  37. Popsiq

    On December 25, 2010 at 3:03 pm


    Odd that the incident was never repeated in that war, or any war since. Christmas may be a day of special rations and prezzies from home, but it’s no less a day for killing than any other.

    In the Great War the closest approximations of that spirit of \’refusing to participate\’, were the French mutiny of spring 1917 and the Russians leaving the front lines to go home later that same year.

    I like the latter-day paraphrase of the cureently notable DADT – it’s DGDK – don’t go, don’t kill.

  38. Adam Neira

    On December 26, 2010 at 6:19 am


    The 2005 French movie “Joyeux Noël” is a beautiful one.

    I recommend it to everyone.

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