The Christmas Truce
In 1914, a very unusual Christmas event occurred. The event actually happened. After reading this piece during the Christmas season last year at the Pierce Arrow Theater, I had a man tell me that his grandfather was at this event, and he had told his family this story for many years. I have added my imagination to the literary details of the story, but the historical event is factual.
The Christmas Truce
Only one year before, a farmer’s field outside of Ypres, Belgium, had silently waited for the approach of spring. But on December 24, 1914, the field was the host of the front line of World War I. Soldiers for both the German and Allied forces were reluctant to settle into their foxholes on that frigid night. It seemed that something special should be done on Christmas Eve. But how do you celebrate a sacred birth when you’re just trying to stay alive?
The Allied soldiers reminisced about family, food, and Christmas traditions. They talked about Mom’s turkey and dressing, decorating the tree, a warm fire at grandma’s house, and, of course, the anticipation of what would be under the tree on Christmas morning. All of those things seemed to have been a part of another lifetime. Tonight they were sleeping outside in freezing temperatures, feeling more lonely and homesick than ever.
One of the soldiers noticed a faint line coming from the German line, only about 50 yards away. That one light became two; the two became four; and then then entire line was lit with what the Allied soldiers realized were candles placed on trees. The German’s were decorating for Christmas! As the Allied soldiers watched and listened in amazement, the Germans began to sing “Stille Nacht.” Although they could not understand the words, the Allied soldiers recognized the tune of the beautiful Christmas carol “Silent Night.”
When the song ended, a hush fell on the troops. Slowly and clearly, the Allied soldiers responded by singing “Silent Night” in English. Then soldiers on each side of the trenches began to sing their favorite Christmas carols. The language barrier proved to be no problem that night as familiar tunes brought a feeling of love and peace into each soldier’s heart. An Allied soldier shouted a Christmas greeting into the cold, clear night. His greeting was returned by a German soldier. Soon Christmas greetings filled the gap between the two enemy lines.
Then, in what can only be called a Christmas miracle, soldiers from both sides began to walk into “No Man’s Land,” the area between the enemy lines. Meeting face to face with their enemies, these soldiers called a “Christmas Truce,” and openly and freely shared in a Christmas celebration. For one very special night, even the enemy was a comrade.
Today, 98 years later, may the “Christmas Truce” inspire each of us to lay aside our differences and celebrate the coming of Emmanuel, God with us, the Savior who is Christ the Lord. Let us proclaim with the herald angels that we pray for “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to all men.” This Christmas as we celebrate, let’s not forget the reason for the season. We celebrate the greatest gift God has given to man…the birth of His Son 2000 years ago on that beautiful most holy night.
Copyright 2007 Kim Boyce Koreiba. Please request permission to reprint this piece.