San Dieguito Academy Newspaper
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Art courtesy of The Illustrated London News

Soldiers from the British and German side interact with each other on Christmas

The Lessons We Can Learn from The Christmas Truce

December 24, 2020

The year was 1914.

Fighting raged on the Western Front of the First World War. German troops had moved troops through neutral Belgium into France as part of the Schlieffen Plan to defeat their enemies in both the East and the West. Fighting raged in France, Austria-Hungary, and modern-day New Guinea, and Cameroon. Many high ranking generals predicted that the war would be over by the end of the year, yet it seemed as if there was no end in sight.

And then Christmas Eve came. That silent, holy night.

To celebrate the holidays, the German troops started placing Tannenbaum (“Christmas tree” in German) on the parapets of their trenches. Initially, the British believed that it was a sign of an incoming attack. But then a chorus began to fill the air. “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” (“Silent Night’ sung in its original German language.) The Brits responded in turn: “Silent night, holy night.” The two sides’ dual chants eventually turned into a chorus drifting across the night skies across the Northern French countryside. In many sectors, the British and Germans agreed to hold a ceasefire the next day.

The next day, the British opened to find the German troops wandering No Man’s Land in broad daylight. Stunned by the German’s trust in their supposed ceasefire, many of the British began to crawl out of the trenches and interact with enemy soldiers. Both sides buried their dead, often in common services, exchanged gifts, and even played football together. Eventually, with pressure from the generals, the British and Germans crawled back into their trenches, enemies once again.

Every year, we hear stories of the Christmas truce, and it’s always something I find unbelievably powerful and moving. But I think it’s something that resonates with me even more, this year. I don’t know if you know this, but for many people, this Christmas, and by extension, this year, has been challenging. For many, the season will be a reminder of lost loved ones, of financial stress and panic, and an overall miserable twelve months.

But I think that even in these dark times, we should remember the soldiers who, even while fighting one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history, were still able to crawl out of their trenches and exchange in the holiday’s festivities. And if they could do it, maybe, just maybe, to some extent, we can try our best to do so as well.

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