This is a true story about the spirit of Christmas.
When the Great War broke out all over Europe in August 1914, each side expected to quickly defeat the enemy. Brutal fighting between German, French, Belgian and British soldiers on the western front soon devolved into something the world had never seen before: massive armies stuck in muddy miserable trenches, facing each other with barbed wire, grenades, bayonets and machine guns, for four hundred miles.
The soldiers began to freeze as the weather got cold, since they had never been equipped for winter. The trenches would remain active for the next four years.
On the first Christmas Eve of the First World War, soldiers on both sides of the trenches began calling out to their enemies, and soon began tentatively approaching across their no-man's zones, hands held up in gestures of friendship. All along the western front, Christmas 1914 brought an unofficial and undeclared 24-hour truce. German, French, Belgian and British soldiers exchanged food items and cigarettes, talked, played football.
The leaders of the troops on both sides watched with varying reactions as this spontaneous uprising took place. But news of the Christmas Truce was greeted with severe disapproval when it reached headquarters on both sides. A year later, the trenches were locked down before a similar event could occur. It was observed by some that the fighting had become so bitter and hateful at this point that it would not have happened anyway.
Or maybe, because the fighting had become so bitter and hateful, it would have been needed even more in 1915?
The Christmas Truce on the western front took place exactly one hundred years ago today.
Here are some more links about this inspiring event, including commemorative events from Belgium to Afghanistan: