During World War I in 1914, a miraculous event occurred that still confounds individuals and historians to this day.
On Christmas Eve, despite the mud and harsh living conditions, British soldiers huddled in their trenches in a desperate attempt to stay warm. When the war started in the summer of 1914 the soldiers were told the fighting would be over by Christmas, and they would be home singing carols with their families. Spirits grew heavy as the young men instead spent Christmas surrounded by gunfire, dirt, and the smell of sulfur.
That is until something floated through the air from the German side of the trenches. Christmas carols, sung in German but their tune recognized by the British soldiers, jolted the young men from their depressed stupor. The cheerful songs filled them with memories of home and comfort. Some of the British men responded by singing Christmas songs back to the Germans in English.
Confusion sounded from the other side and after a moment of silence, a heavy German accent began speaking English. He asked the men to come over to his side peacefully. One British man replied, “I’ll meet you if you come halfway!”
Together, the two met in ‘no man’s land’ and shook hands. Gradually, both sides rose from the muddy trenches and met their rednosed and shivering counterparts face to face.
Yesterday they were mortal enemies attempting to kill each other.
Today they are young men far away from home missing their families.
Both sides exchanged gifts of drink, food, and cigars. Many took pictures and signed eachother’s journals so they could show their families back home.
All at once, a football (or soccer ball for those in the U.S.) appeared from out of nowhere. Ernie Williams, a British soldier, recounted, “The ball appeared from somewhere, I don’t know where… They made up some goals and one fellow went in goal and then it was just a general kick-about. I should think there were about a couple of hundred taking part.”
German Lieutenant Kurt Zehmisch wrote in his diary, “How marvelously wonderful, yet how strange it was. The English officers felt the same way about it. Thus Christmas, the celebration of Love, managed to bring mortal enemies together as friends for a time.”
A British soldier even set up a makeshift barber shop. He didn’t care which side his customers were from, as long as they paid him in cigarettes.
This Christmas truce was not met warmly by all though. It horrified leaders that their soldiers had fraternized with the enemy and later strict rules were put in place, so something like this could never happen again.
But that did not stop news of the Christmas ceasefire from spreading. Many wrote home about it and family members turned their letters into the press. The Christmas spirit spread like a virus throughout the world.
The miracle that British, German, and even some French and Belgian troops could lay down their weapons and have a Christmas party with their enemy brought newfound hope to both sides. Though this event was suppressed by many, it still lives on to show us how, despite war, hardship, oppression, and language barriers, the Christmas spirit overcomes. Why does it overcome? Because it is the promise of new life and salvation. Christmas is not just a holiday, but a celebration of hope. Many negate the power of Christ and the day celebrating his birth, but that does not stop His infectious power. So, this Christmas, even though the world continues to grow cold and harsh, remember the power of Christmas. Celebrate with your family and maybe even invite someone who you wouldn’t normally. Sing carols, exchange gifts, or take part in activities that spread joy. It doesn’t have to cost much, but the memories will be of more value than gold.
Some traditions span centuries while new ones are birthed every year. I posted a question on social media asking people about their family traditions. I placed the answers below so you can have new things to try this Christmas season. Please take a minute to read and find something you can do with others this Christmas!
“My sisters had this tradition of waking up early on Christmas morning and doing the chores around the farm, then taking a walk down the road. We would return to eat cinnamon rolls or pound cake for breakfast that Mom had made!”
“My family has Swedish roots, so growing up every Christmas, all of us, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, everybody, would get together and make a big breakfast spread with Ebelskivers as the main dish. Ebelskivers are basically pancake balls with powdered sugar sprinkled on top, we only had them Christmas morning and they were such a treat!”
“Every year my mom hides two sticks of chapstick in one of my dad’s gifts and he tries to guess which one it’s going to be in while he’s opening them. He’s so pleased with himself when he figures it out and laughs so hard when they surprise him.”
“After going to the Christmas Eve service at church, we come home, open presents, and then sit together and watch a movie with all the lights turned off. Except for the Christmas tree lights. It’s always magical, with just the little blue bulbs glowing in the living room. “
“We like to open and play a new game as a family on Christmas Eve.”
“We do a baking competition. (We) break the family up into teams, and get my grandparents to judge the results.”
“Every Christmas Eve, the family all gets together to do a white elephant game”
“Piling in the car to do a Christmas Decoration Scavenger hunt. You can download the list from Pinterest. Every age can play. ”
“We have a Christmas pickle hunt. It’s a pickle ornament that I hide in the tree Christmas morning and the first kid to find it gets to open the first gift of their choice while everyone watches.”
“We read the night before Christmas on Christmas Eve and we leave out cookies, milk, a candy cane, and carrots. “Santa” always puts an orange in the toe of the stockings. Each kid gets the same number of presents (usually 10) and we open them as soon as we wake up in our pjs still. Then we have breakfast, get dressed, and go visit family.”
“We always have chicken salad sandwiches and hot chocolate on Christmas Eve. It goes back to when my Gramma was a kid. She and her siblings were bugging my great-grandmother so much, who was trying to make a lovely ham dinner, begging her for food on Christmas Eve that she finally gave up and fed them chicken salad and hot chocolate. We’ve celebrated that moment ever since!!”
“We go every year to pick out and cut down our Christmas Tree.”
Author’s suggestion: “My family had this musical book with buttons that would play Christmas tunes. Every weeknight we would sing Christmas carols along with the music and then read a part of the Christmas story from the Bible. On the weekends or late afternoons, we would watch different versions of The Christmas Carol movies and even perform bits of it from memory. After we put up the Christmas tree, we would watch It’s a Wonderful Life and my dad would even make us a special ‘family recipe’ of peanut butter and pancake syrup on white bread. Though as an adult, this concoction seems strange, it’s still one of my favorite memories.”
Internet poll results by Julia N. White on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.