In a Nutshell
In 1914, the vicious assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand caused the eruption of World War I. Global forces went toe to toe for months on end, and the battlefield was full of casualties from all sides. Amongst the mass bloodshed and political manipulation, British and German soldiers decided it was only right to take a break for Christmas. While they may not have had decorations and presents, they did have the special Christmas spirit…
The Whole Bushel
Let’s face it, a world war is something that everyone would rather avoid. But, back in June of 1914, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand angered a lot of people in powerful positions. As you’re probably aware, if one country is at war, it then calls on other countries who have pledged their allegiance to join in. Before you know it, you have multiple countries battling against each other; in other words, World War I.
Now, during the heat of World War I, all annual celebrations and normal life goes out the window. All that’s at the forefront of people’s minds is war, and war only. After months and months of exactly that, something rather strange occurred. Well, not strange in normally, but strange in the context of war.
On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV requested a small hiatus in violence so that everyone could celebrate Christmas peacefully. Of course, no country wanted to put their pride to one side, so that request was quickly quashed. However, when it actually came to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, something extraordinary occurred.
British and German soldiers who had been continuously endeavoring to kill each other on the Western Front took it upon themselves to establish their own truce. Commencing on Christmas Eve, the intimidating bangs of bullets being fired were traded for jolly Christmas carols; the heavy crashes of mortar fire were swapped for banter and laughing. That happened all throughout the night.
As the sun rose and Christmas Day was officially there, German soldiers started climbing out of the trenches and trotting out into ‘no-mans land’, shouting “Merry Christmas” to the British soldiers. Confirming the Germans were unarmed, the British emerged from their trenches and returned the favor. Reports suggest that cigarettes were exchanged, plum puddings were eaten, and songs were belted out.
The opposing sides just enjoyed each other’s company. In fact, one report even claimed there was a friendly soccer game – British vs. Germans. Although, Christmas Day wasn’t all smiles and happiness. Both sets of soldiers utilized the truce to collect fallen comrades who had previously reached their demise in ‘no-mans land’.
Despite the truce only being temporary, it just highlights that humanity can be present, even at a time when killing is the main objective. The only sad thing is that celebrations for special occasions didn’t ever occur again, because those in authority threatened harsh punishment against anyone failing to do their job… defeat the enemy at all costs.