Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Truce

(NOTE: this is not an urban myth. It really happened in 1914, during the First World War)

The "Christmas truce" is a term used to describe the brief unofficial cessation of hostilities that occurred between German and British troops stationed on the Western Front of World War I during Christmas 1914. 

The truce began on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1914, when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium, for Christmas. They began by placing candles on trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols, namely Stille Nacht (Silent Night). The British troops in the trenches across from them responded by singing English carols.

The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were calls for visits across the "No Man's Land" where small gifts were exchanged — whiskey, jam, cigars, and the like. The artillery in the region fell silent that night. 

The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently-fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Proper burials took place as soldiers from both sides mourned the dead together and paid their respects. At one funeral in No Man's Land, soldiers from both sides gathered and read a passage from the 23rd Psalm:
"The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the path of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil."
The truce spread to other areas of the lines, and there are many stories — some perhaps apocryphal — of football (soccer) matches between the opposing forces. The film Merry Christmas suggests that letters sent home from the war related that the score was 3-2 in favor of the Germans.

(source: Wikipedia -- Christmas Truce)

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