So it’s that time of year again, we’ve all by now finished our scrumptious Christmas dinners, whether Turkey; Goose or vegetarian alternative (thankfully not banned this year as under Oliver Cromwell’s reign as lord protector in England, Scrooge), lost track of the amount of presents we’ve carefully wrapped; which are then subsequently ripped apart by excited relatives both young and old; and probably have heard enough Christmas songs and carols that we are set till next year, and although I sounds as if I’m being cynical I honestly don’t mean to be, as unsurprisingly Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year. It is the time where we let go of the restraints we put on your inner kid and gaze in wonder at all the pretty lights and decorations both in our homes and outside them, it’s the time when we gather our families together tell them that we love them, and lastly it’s a time for miracles, one of the few times that the impossible becomes possible; that reindeer can fly, that father Christmas (St Nick,) whatever name you know him as, can get down your chimney and bring you presents. Which let me tell you; is no mean feat. I’ve lately seen a news report where this little boy asked the builder of his mum’s new house to make sure the chimney was Santa proof; they brought in a mathematician and an architect, just to make sure, Father Christmas wouldn’t get stuck. But I digress there are more miracles to Christmas than I could go on about in this post, of course not forgetting the main one, the miracle of Jesus’ birth, but also the miracle of changing as Scrooge did and the ability to turn over a new leaf . Thus I think I’ve finally answered the question as to Christmas is all about… miracles, the one day of the year when absolutely anything is possible, even a truce in the middle of, one of the bloodiest conflicts in modern history.
As we know World War I, can be considered as 4 years of hell for its participants, what with trench warfare, and the development of modern machinery such as the use of gas, and the introduction of air force, it is rightly called the first total war as I believe no one who was a part of it would have been left unscathed. However I’m not here, to talk about horrors or to say what was right or wrong within this conflict. I’m here to talk about the series of unofficial truces that occurred in 1914 all the way the western front that year. See here is what I consider to be the true power of Christmas, its ability to turn enemies into friends if only for the night.
The week leading up to Christmas began with parties of German and British officers, approximately 100,000 soldiers were involved in, unofficial ceasefire including the Christmas truces. They begun by exchanging carols and greetings, often shouted across to the other trench, decorating trenches and Christmas trees with candles. Such was the Christmas spirit that the hostility between the opposing forces can be argued as being reduced to the extent that troops could cross into ‘No Man’s land’, where they mingled with each other’s ‘enemy’, exchanging gifts of what they had around food, i.e. cigarettes and alcohol and souvenirs, such as buttons and hats. Furthermore joint services we’re held, and the day was also used for both sides to collect and bury died. And for one, special you could almost say magical night the artillery fell silent, and it was for once all quite… well mostly on the western front’.
With stories of a ‘machine gunner, who was a bit of an amateur hair dresser cutting the unnaturally long hair of a docile Boche’ , and perhaps more famously the game of football played in the western front. This legendary game of football, is often repeated, however whether it actually occurred, or whether there was more than one game, as is now generally assumed, is something that is lost in history. With one man producing a football, which resulted in “a free-for-all; there could have been 50 on each side”, before they were ordered back, and for the football fans amongst us there are as you would expect variations of the final score, with a German officer Lieutenant Niemann, describing the final score of a match just outside Armentieres as 3-2 to the Germans.
Unfortunately whilst the Christmas spirit appeared to be with some, the ceasefire did not occur unanimously though out the conflict area, or throughout the war as the truces seem to decline as the war carried on to its bitter end. Although, there were later truces and attempts at truces on other religious days such as Easter. However the decline was in part a result of , ‘strongly worded orders from high commands on both sides’, which I Personally think it was a dreadful thing to order, whilst I understand that there was a war going on, they could have least given them Christmas. In addition fraternisation was not without its risks, as whist ‘goodwill to all men’ was the maxim in some hearts that year, which unfortunately others did not follow. Although this was the official line, there are recorded some situations of deliberate dampening of hostilities with artillery being fired at precise points to avoid any enemy casualties.
So with gun shots fired the truces were over and the war was on again. Yet from this, wonderful episode of humanity and good will, we can see the enormous power of Christmas, and its ability to do well, in this world of ours. And so in the words of John and Yoko Ono , war [this one in particular] is over, yet whilst there still remains conflict, and Christmas remains a time for reflection and good will to mankind then I hope that truces such as these continue to occur; to demonstrate and respect the fact that whilst we maybe on different sides, we are all human. Perhaps that’s the lesson we must take with us into the New Year, we are all human and as this golden episode in the history of humanity, demonstrates there are some things that bind us all together and Christmas is a special time in which we should all remember this fact.
So all that’s left for me to do is wish all of our readers a Merry Christmas and a great New Year, and we shall meet again in 2012, a year of anniversaries, the sinking of the titanic and Queen Elizabeth’s II Diamond Jubilee to name a few, and also a year of exciting events such as the Olympics in England. So here’s to 2012 and all it brings.
Watch for a great depiction of the events just talked about; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHObCL2luMw&feature=related
The story of the little boy who asked for a Santa proof chimney;
pictures: Google images