You’ve probably heard the story. Maybe, like me, you thought it was urban legend or just some nice story that gets retold this time of year. Well, I can confirm that this story is absolutely true. I’ve confirmed it at Snopes.com as well as this article from 2005 in the New York Times. If you’re not familiar with the Christmas Truce of 1914, here’s the story in a nutshell:
Yet on Dec. 24, much of the Western Front fell silent as ordinary soldiers made temporary peace with the enemy. This was the remarkable Christmas Truce of 1914.
It’s estimated that about 100,000 men, mainly British and Germans, took part. In fact, the sheer magnitude of the event led many to doubt that it ever happened. As late as 1983, one veteran called the truce a “latrine rumor.”
Today, however, it is often seen as one of the few bright moments amid the slaughter of the Great War, in which 14 million people were killed.
To quote the last remaining survivor of the event:
It was a beautiful moonlit night, frost on the ground, white almost everywhere; and about 7 or 8 in the evening there was a lot of commotion in the German trenches and there were these lights -I don’t know what they were. And then they sang “Silent Night” – “Stille Nacht.” I shall never forget it, it was one of the highlights of my life. I thought, what a beautiful tune. – Pvt. Albert Moren of the Second Queens Regiment
As I was driving today I heard the song written by Garth Brooks about this event called “Belleau Wood.” As often happens behind the wheel, it gave me pause to consider this season and that moment nearly 100 years ago. Sworn enemies found a moment to pause in their fighting and share a song. They put down their weapons. They called a truce. At least for a few moments there was “peace on earth and good will to men.”
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
As I scan my timelines, I see battles. I see people taking sides over current events. For this moment, for this season, can we put down our weapons? Can we, like those soldiers call a truce. Can hate not be strong? Maybe it’s more personal for anyone that would read this. Maybe it’s that phone call you need to make or that person you need to have THAT conversation with. Why not now? Why not today? Enter 2014 with peace where once was war.
To quote Garth Brooks in Belleau Wood
“Here’s hoping we both live to find a better way.”