In war, there’s no room for peace, love and pity. You either kill the enemy or get killed in the battlefield. But during World War I, on Christmas Day of 1914, German soldiers and the British army laid down their arms and celebrated Christmas by exchanging gifts, hugs and playing soccer together.
This extra-ordinary event is now known as The Christmas Truce of 1914. According to the history books, the idea of the truce all started when Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary ceasefire in celebration of Christmas time (December 7, 1914). Although all the countries who are at war refused to create an official document or statement calling for a cease-fire, the soldiers themselves in the trenches declared their own unofficial truce, even for just few hours.
The unofficial truce started on Christmas Eve when the German and British troops started singing Christmas carols to each other while hidden in the dark. Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans while they sing Christmas carols in their own language. Regimental Sergeant Major George Beck wrote that amazing turn of events in his diary:
“At 2am (25th) a German Band went along their trenches playing “Home Sweet Home” and “God Save the King” which sounded grand and made everyone think of home.”
The next day, at the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers came out from hiding and walked towards the Allied lines while saying the words “Merry Christmas” in English language. The allied soldiers think that it was just a trick for them to come out and get killed in an instant. But after noticing that the Germans are unarmed, they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands and trade hugs with the enemy soldiers.
This very act was enough for the other soldiers to come out and celebrate Christmas with the other soldiers. Men started to exchanged presents from cigarettes up to plum puddings. Some soldiers played musical instruments while the others sang Christmas carols for each other. Some took advantage of the ceasefire to retrieve the bodies of their fallen comrades. History records also mentioned that the soldiers of opposing sides played a friendly game of soccer that became the highlight of their Christmas truce.
The Christmas Truce of 1914 happened five months after the outbreak of war in Europe. It was the one and only documented event that showcased chivalry and compassion between enemies in times of war. It was never repeated but it served as an amazing proof that even at the roughest and brutal times, humanity can still prevail.
If you wanted to see how this whole event unfolded, here’s a video of Sainsbury’s OFFICIAL Christmas 2014 Ad that featured the Christmas Truce of 1914.
“Even at the toughest of time, in the heat of war and at the most dreadful occasion, there can be great humanity.” – Alan Cleaver