A little over a century ago today, in a not well enough known story, hostilities temporarily ceased within the War to end all wars (which, unfortunately, didn’t end all wars). Truth be told all sides at that time thought the little dust up in Europe which started in August 1914 would be over by Christmas.
It started simply enough with German Troops singing “Silent Night”. They were soon joined by their enemy combatants, Scottish bagpipers cordially joining in defying the call to war just as their kilts defied the December cold. Along the Frozen Western Front, French, British Scottish (and some conscripts from Far away India and Nepal) and opposing German troops extracted themselves from their trenches and dugouts, approaching cautiously at first then eagerly, across so called No Man’s Land where comrades had fallen and the destruction of war was born. Greetings and handshakes were exchanged as were gifts. German souvenirs that ordinarily would have been obtained only through death – such as spiked pickelhaube helmets, or Gott mit uns belt buckles – were bartered for similar British trinkets. Carols were sung in German, English, and French. Good natured ribbing was also bantered about. A few photographs were taken of British and German officers standing alongside each other, unarmed, in No Man’s Land.
And then the unthinkable among bitter rivals happened. Without higher military sanction a friendly match of football broke out between English and German forces. Generals said nothing as the fight was ceased for cordial activities. Although not everyone welcomed the peace.
“Such a thing should not happen in wartime…Have you no German sense of honor left at all?” groused an unknown at the time whiney little fuck of a Corporal.
Considering the speaker this was to be expected. Adolph Hitler was always a Asshole.
Christmas night shots started to ring out reminding the suddenly coordial soldiers that they were still at war and within a week Hostilities roared as if they never ceased. Unfortunately the Spirit of Christmas Hitler won, then and tragically into the future as the seeds of future wars were tragically laid during the first world war.
I always think of this story on Christmas Day, the day Christians celebrate as the Birth of their Prince of Peace. Christianity spread from the Holy land, seeded upon the rocks and crags of Golgotha, where the blood of the sacrificial lamb was spilled. To this day, near that site in Jerusalem, three major religions exist in hostile truce marked by all too frequent bloodshed. It was from this hostile incubator that the LOGOS λόγος of Christianity spread; ideas centered on the trinity virtues of Love, Truth and Fraternity, ideas in search of a people, which it eventually found in its most receptive audience in the hardy stock of European men of the North. There has always been a word for So Called European wing of Western Civilization: Christendom.
When I think of today I always ask: What if…
What if Christendom didn’t resume its attritive slaughter of itself after the Christmas Truce 104 years ago Today?
No treaty of Versailles or Rise of Hitlers National Socialism from a decimated Germany?
No collapse of Czarist Russia into the ghastly Soviet Union?
No Spread of Communism and the horrors it unleashed on the world?
No Imperialist American empire that all too often felt it necessary to turn to the Dark side to stop communism?
Of course hindsight teaches us that if we knew then what we know now we might have stopped the most horrific aspects of the 20th century from occurring. Maybe if more people knew of the Christmas truce along the Western Front 104 years ago today, learning from our mistakes and more importantly living within that spirit, we can have that peace.
That’s what the Prince of Peace whose birth is celebrated today would have wanted, not just for his people, but for all good people who desire the Peace he preached.
Merry Christmas Everyone. And yes I mean everyone 😉