Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Truce

When tens of thousands of young British and Commonwealth men went off to war so eagerly and naively in the summer of 1914, it was generally thought that they would be home by Christmas. But by then the troops on the Western Front were well entrenched along a mostly static line that would witness a brutal war of attrition during the next four years.

One of the absurdities of war is that the people who are expected to kill one another have no personal enmity towards one another. This became very clear on Christmas, 1914, when there was a spontaneous cessation of hostilities between British and German troops in the front lines. The Germans were decorating their trenches with small Christmas trees and singing carols. The British “retaliated” with English carols, and soon the men were shouting greetings to each other. Many met in No Man's Land (the area between the opposing front lines) where small gifts like chocolate or buttons were exchanged, and pictures of sweethearts were shown. In some places, the opposing troops played soccer, and drank together. It became known as the "Christmas Truce", and was dramatized in the 2005 Oscar-nominated French film entitled "Joyeux Noel". The commanders, of course, didn’t like this fraternization with the enemy, and tried to ensure that it never happened again.

Because my Muskoka Novels take place during WW1 and involve idealistic and patriotic young men and women going off to war, I donated three dozen copies of Book 1, The Summer Before The Storm, to our Canadian troops in Afghanistan two Christmases ago. I thought that they could relate to my characters, since they were also far away from home and loved ones, fighting battles on foreign soil.

Christmas is a time to truly reflect and heed Longfellow’s words, sung for generations - “peace on earth, good will to men”.


  1. This is such a moving story. These young men who shared so much common humanity, unable to stop the fighting for more than a day. Thank you for posting this Gabriele.

    Have a very Merry Christmas!


  2. Thanks, Jeannette. Hard to believe that at a prearranged signal, both sides agreed to start killing each other again! Just following orders, of course.

    A Merry Christmas to you and yours as well!



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