The true meaning of Christmas


On Christmas Day, 1914, in the first year of World War I, German, British, and French soldiers disobeyed their superiors and fraternized with "the enemy" along two-thirds of the Western Front. This disobedience was then punishable by death. This is the story of the Christmas truce.


Eyewitness accounts suggest that a stony silence fell along the trenches of the Western Front when the soldiers first peered out of their trenches. The allies then saw German troops holding Christmas trees up out of the trenches with signs saying "Merry Christmas" and "You no shoot, we no shoot." Some came out with candles, others then began singing hymns. One by one, at first, the men ventured out of their shelters. Soon thousands of soldiers were streaming across a no-man's land strewn with rotting corpses, covered in blood and freshly fallen snow.


The officers seemed to agree an informal and fragile truce. So the men spent Christmas together, sang carols, exchanged photographs of loved ones back home, and shared rations. Soldiers embraced men they had been trying to kill a few short hours before. They agreed to warn each other if their commanders forced them to fire their weapons, and promised to aim high. Someone brought out a football. It didnít matter who won or lost that day. What mattered was participating together in a celebration of love, of peace, and in the beautiful game.


The next day the games were over and the battle and the killing recommenced in earnest. By 1918 fifteen million would be killed. But for that one day, humanity gave us a glimpse of how the world should be. Those who were there have passed the story onto us so that we will always remember the importance of peace and the true spirit of Christmas. And in a day when news programs showing deaths and disasters around the world are interrupted so that we can be urged to buy the latest toys or gadgets as Christmas gifts, it is worth remembering both the story and its message.


Peace on earth, good will to all men.


Have a merry Christmastime and a happy, peaceful and prosperous new year.


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