When Christmas silenced the guns

Accounts, even by esteemed historians, still differ on what exactly happened on the Western Front that Christmas of 1914. But this year, the 100th anniversary of the “Christmas truce,” has brought more attention than ever to a night and a day and perhaps a week when German and Allied forces left their weapons silent to exchange cigars and chocolate and play some soccer.

As one historian observed informally: Even if the soccer match part of the story is an exaggeration, who cares? It is known that the troops, spurred by Christmas songs played by a German band, met in peace in various spots along the Front and took time to mark the shared holiday.

It was early on in a war that would cost hundreds of thousands of lives and would not be, as it once was called, “the war to end all wars.”

In this anniversary year, the world needs to recall the Christmas truce, for it shows that no matter the differences among the people who are products of different cultures, there remain shared emotions and humanity. Even in those cold trenches of long ago, the spirit of Christmas arose in the Germans and the English and other troops. Perhaps they remembered home and hearth and mothers and grandmothers and brothers and sisters. Perhaps they sought comfort in the greetings of others with whom they would still go to war. Christmas peace prevailed, even briefly on a battlefield.