Early Settlers of
Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
The Christmas Truce of 1914
On Christmas Day soccer games were organized and enemy soldiers laughed and sported as they engaged in the games. I heard the story of how enemies during the Great War, which we call World War I, the “war to end all wars,” had a truce on Christmas Day, 1914.
It had been five months since
the war began
Were the signs a ruse to ensnare the allies in yet another German trap? The weather was cold. In the trenches both allied soldiers and the German troops experienced all the dread of war. Christmas season seemed to maximize their loneliness, deprivation, separation from families, the bitter cold and discomfort of a severe winter, the fear of war with its mortar shells, and, even worse, face-to-face confrontation with the enemy bringing mortal wounds at any time with bayonet or gunfire. Add to that the monotony of field rations as visions of sugarplums and the Christmas feasts they had enjoyed back home came to mind again and again.
“You no fight, we no fight!”? Daresome, indeed. Had the allied forces the courage to venture forth to see if the Germans actually meant to declare a truce or if it was a dirty war trick to get the allied forces into a position for good aim.
Some from warring factions met, bayonets at rest. They shook hands, and shared gifts they had received in care packages from home, miraculously delivered by Christmas Eve.
Throughout the German
strains of “Silent Night” sounded with lyrics in the language of the
The tune was familiar, having been used throughout most of the churches
In language native to soldiers on every side, the words were raised to the stars that twinkled in the cold December sky as the chorus of the music echoed along the trenches. It was a “Stille Nacht,” a night of wonder when enemies celebrated the birth of the Prince of Peace. Guns were silent. The men slept more peacefully in their trenches that Christmas Eve night, drawing their field blankets about them in an effort to find some creature comfort from the biting cold.
On Christmas Day soccer games were organized and enemy soldiers laughed and sported as they engaged in the games.
Officers on both sides could hardly contain their consternation. They had not ordered cessation of hostilities. The soldiers had managed it on their own. One French general, still suspecting the move to be a trap set by the Germans, ordered explosives laid just in case it was a trick. Another fear of the allied officers was that such action on the part of enemy troops would damper plans to defeat the enemy. After all, what soldiers would want to fight and kill those with whom they had enjoyed Christmas?
After that unique Christmas
truce in 1914,
hostilities continued for almost four years with
A historical commentator has written of that Great War, “the war to end all wars”:
“It was more than a war between
was a war between what was and what was to be. The ‘old world’ was
the new world had yet to be born. People of all classes and nations saw
it as a
great cleansing fire that would accelerate this battle and lead to a
world. But, when it was over, more than men had died in the mud of the
battlefields. The naive dream of progress, along with the innocence of
pre-war world, faith in God, and hope in the future all died in the
During a time of truce on a German battlefield at Christmas time, 1914, the strains of “Silent Night” lifted through the cold of wintertime to become a sacred moment of shared beliefs and mutual yearnings for peace on earth among men of good will.
[Note: The news of this event was published on January 9, 1915 in The Illustrated London News under the headline “Saxons and Anglo-Saxons Fraternize on Battlefield.” The article had pictures of smiling soldiers from both sides engaged in greetings and friendly games.]
c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Dec. 8, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
[Ethelene Dyer Jones is a retired educator, freelance writer, poet, and historian. She may be reached at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708 Cedarwood Road, Milledgeville, GA 31061-2411.]
Updated August 6, 2009