Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas in the Trenches

Christmas, 1914
One of the most amazing stories of the first World War was that in 1914, the first year of the Great War, the soldiers in the trenches made an unofficial truce on Christmas Eve.  With no diplomats and no orders, a hundred thousand soldiers stopped fighting, and instead met each other in the no-man's-land between barbed wire, sang carols, exchanged chocolate, and even played soccer.  In some places along the front, the unofficial truce lasted as long as New Year's day.

John McCutcheon's poem (song) "Christmas in the Trenches" celebrates the truce.
"Christmas in the Trenches" on youtube.

--By the second year of the war, 1915, it was clear that the Great War was not going to end soon, and the idealism and hope of the early years had corroded away.  The war was going badly for all the sides involved.  The commanders made a particular order that there was to be no truce with the enemy for Christmas (or any other time).  The Christmas truce of 1914 was not repeated, and the last known survivor of the Christmas Truce died in November 2005.

Still, for one single day during the Great War, there was what passed for peace on Earth.

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

-- Frederick Niven (1878-1944), "A Carol from Flanders"

Merry Christmas to all.
Pine in moonlight (photo by Geoffrey A. Landis)

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The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau