I heard an interesting story in my car while listening to the Manheim Steamroller Christmas special on National Public Radio and driving to my parents for the holidays. It was a remarkable Christmas sotry that I’d never herad before. The Christmas Truce of World War I in 1914, when both German and British soldiers laid down their weapons and refused to fight for a full twenty-four hours in observance of Christmas.
Both sides were fighting from their six foot deep mud filled trenches on the western front in Ypres Belgium. It was bitter cold and the freezing conditions alone could have caused many men to lose their lives. The British noticed small pine trees popping up above the trenches along the German lines. The Germans were decorating their trenches for Christmas, with tiny trees and candles. Makeshift signs soon appeared that read in crude English, “you no fight, we no fight.” The British troops responded in kind with their own signs that read a similar message in German. An unspoken truce broke out despite orders from commanding officers to keep fighting. The truce continued for an entire 24 hours during Christmas Day. During this time soldiers crossed enemy lines and assisted each other with burying the dead and arranging a funeral service lead by the British Chaplain.
Along with funeral services, the German and British troops sang Christmas carols and exchanged small presents such as tobacco, chocolate and cognac. Though there was no official truce, around 100,000 British and German troops were “unofficially,” involved in the ceasefire. Instead of aiming at each other, the troops pointed their guns skyward and wasted rounds of ammunition firing at the stars.