“My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth.” – George Washington.
War is always a terrible thing. It divides people and causes hurt and hardship that takes generations to heal. World War I was no exception. Perhaps WWI was worse due to the new use of weaponry that slaughtered men by the hundreds and chemical warfare that tortured those in the trenches. However, in the middle of the cruelty of war came a true Christmas miracle. On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a Christmas cease-fire. Both sides refused to do any such thing. Thus, there would be fighting on Christmas Day it seemed. On the Western front, one section of the front created their own truce. It began on Christmas Eve night when a group of German soldiers began to sing Christmas carols in their trench. The British troops slowly began to sing along as well. Then, one group began placing lit candles along the top of the trench. On Christmas Day, one brave man climbed over the side of the trench and made his way to no man’s land to greet the other side. A man from the opposite side joined him. Then more and more men made their way to no man’s land. Reports vary about exactly what they did, but it is known that they exchanged Christmas greetings and small gifts. Some accounts say that some even played football in no man’s land. Others say that the men took the time to repair their trenches and bury the dead. For a short time, one thing is clear, the men on both sides were friends and not enemies. Sadly, this brief intermission in the horrors of war was not universal. In fact, it is thought that only a small portion of the Western front experienced such a truce. In many other places, men fought and died on Christmas Day. By the end of Boxing Day (Dec. 26), most of the meetings in no man’s land had dwindled. Soon the same men who had met to exchange gifts were once again seeking to kill each other. Soon the horrors of trench warfare were once again foremost in the minds of the soldiers. The Christmas Day Truce may have been a temporary and informal truce, but it will forever be remembered as a bright point in the dark of war. It was a time when those from different countries, languages, and sides of the war joined to celebrate what they did have in common. It also shows that, even in the “war to end all wars” of WWI, something good and beautiful can be found.