Susan E. Mazer, Ph.D. Blog

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A Christmas Truce 99 Years Ago

December 20, 2013

Christmas TruceFor the past four years, I have written about the Christmas Truce of 1914, which has been become mythic in its meaning.

During World War I, about 100,000 German and British troops were amassed at the Western Front, each preparing for a brutal war. In the quiet and cold of the dark night, the Germans, began decorating their trenches and eventually singing carols.

The British listened. With every German carol, they sang a British carol. They even applauded each others’ performances.

Finally, the two battalions at war with each other began helping each other bury their dead and celebrating Christmas.  They unofficially and without words declared an unofficial truce on Christmas Eve.

I share again what I wrote last year, as I still feel the same angst and challenges:

Am I really dreaming of things that can only happen in dreams? Or is it possible that in our individual humanity, it the core of who we are, we can actually just stop killing each other? The economy is starting to recover, but lives changed by wars remain changed and the recovery is far more difficult, hardly measured in a stock market or interest rates.

The Christmas Truce Carol

In Flanders on the Christmas morn
The trenched foemen lay,
the German and the Briton born,
And it was Christmas Day.

The red sun rose on fields accurst,
The gray fog fled away;
But neither cared to fire the first,
For it was Christmas Day!

They called from each to each across
The hideous disarray,
For terrible has been their loss:
“Oh, this is Christmas Day!”

Their rifles all they set aside,
One impulse to obey;
‘Twas just the men on either side,
Just men — and Christmas Day.

They dug the graves for all their dead
And over them did pray:
And Englishmen and Germans said:
“How strange a Christmas Day!”

Between the trenches then they met,
Shook hands, and e’en did play
At games on which their hearts were set
On happy Christmas Day.

Not all the emperors and kings,
Financiers and they
Who rule us could prevent these things —
For it was Christmas Day.

Oh ye who read this truthful rime
From Flanders, kneel and say:
God speed the time when every day
Shall be as Christmas Day.

Frederick Niven (1878-1944)

For a brief and moving documentary on Christmas Truce story, watch this video: