The war had been going on for five long months. Soldiers missed their families, their homes, and those special girls who awaited their return.
They also missed being warm and well-fed on this cold winter’s evening. Earlier in that December of 1914, Pope Benedict XV had suggested the armies suspend fighting temporarily to celebrate Christmas, a request denied by the countries at war.
The soldiers hunched in the long trenches across from their enemy, longing for warmth, longing for something to mark this day as Christmas Eve. No man’s land, the area between opposing armies, was only about 100 feet in places. In those spots, soldiers could hear each other. The smell of meals cooking in the enemy trenches often wafted over.
Then the lonely soldiers heard something unexpected on the moonlit night—not the sounds of rifles or cannons, but singing. The Germans sang a Christmas carol in their own language. Next, Allied troops from opposing trenches sang a Christmas tune. This continued until the Allies began the familiar carol, “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” German soldiers joined in with the Latin words to the song. It must have been extraordinarily comforting.
British Captain A.D. Chater was writing a letter to his mom at 10 am the next morning when he witnessed an amazing sight: a German soldier waving his arms before he and a companion, weaponless, entered no man’s land.
A British soldier cautiously approached them. Within five minutes, officers and men from both armies filled the area. They shook hands and exchanged Christmas greetings.
The soldiers kicked around a soccer ball together. Some accounts mention playing football. A German barber cut a British soldier’s hair. They gave each other gifts of plum pudding, cigarettes, and hats. They posed for photos together and exchanged autographs.
Each side also took the opportunity to bury their dead, soldiers who had been laying in no man’s land for weeks.
Around 100,000 soldiers—two-thirds of the men there—shared in the unforgettable Christmas truce.
The Christmas truce never happened again.
The faith and joy of the season crossed enemy lines one lonely Christmas. Fighting ceased for a moment in time.
– Sandra Merville Hart
Bajekal, Naina. “Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914,” Time Inc., 2016/10/26 http://time.com/3643889/christmas-truce-1914/.
“Christmas Truce of 1914,” History.com, 2016/10/26 http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/christmas-truce-of-1914.
Dearden, Lizzie. “Christmas Day Truce 1914: Letter From trenches shows football match through soldier’s eyes for the first time,” The Independent, 2016/10/26 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/christmas-truce-of-1914-letter-from-trenches-shows-football-match-through-soldiers-eyes-9942929.html.