Soldiers hunkered down in trenches did their best to stay warm as a white frost enveloped the ground. As artillery explosions thundered sharply in the distance, rattling the ground around them, the soft sounds of Silent Night gently wafted from the German trenches.
“Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!”
Garth Brooks was my first exposure to this historical event with his popular and touching song, Belleau Wood. Since then I’ve discovered several more. John McCutcheon’s moving rendition Christmas in the Trenches stirred my soul. My heart ached when the artillery shelling started up again bringing an end to the two day peace as portrayed in the 1969 movie, Oh! What a Lovely War. I was tempted to sing along with The Royal Guardsman on their 1967 hit ballad, Snoopy’s Christmas, featuring arch enemies Snoopy and the Red Baron experiencing the Christmas Truce:
The Baron had Snoopy dead in his sights
He reached for the trigger to pull it up tight
Why he didn’t shoot, well, we’ll never know
Or was it the bells from the village below…
The Baron made Snoopy fly to the Rhine
And forced him to land behind the enemy lines
Snoopy was certain that this was the end
When the Baron cried out, “Merry Christmas, my friend!”
The Baron then offered a holiday toast
And Snoopy, our hero, saluted his host
And then with a roar they were both on their way
Each knowing they’d meet on some other day.
One of my favorite dramatic portrayals of this remarkable event was produced this year as a “Christmas Advert” for Sainsbury’s in England. Made in conjunction with the Royal British Legion, Sainsbury’s shares an authentic storytelling that’s incredibly inspiring, simply beautiful, and enjoyable advertising.
Enjoy this account written by English solider Rifleman C H Brazier, Queen's Westminsters, of Bishop's Stortford:
"You will no doubt be surprised to hear that we spent our Christmas in the trenches after all and that Christmas Day was a very happy one. On Christmas Eve the Germans entrenched opposite us began calling out to us ‘Cigarettes’, ‘Pudding’, ‘A Happy Christmas’ and ‘English – means good’, so two of our fellows climbed over the parapet of the trench and went towards the German trenches. Half-way they were met by four Germans, who said they would not shoot on Christmas Day if we did not. They gave our fellows cigars and a bottle of wine and were given a cake and cigarettes. When they came back I went out with some more of our fellows and we were met by about 30 Germans, who seemed to be very nice fellows. I got one of them to write his name and address on a postcard as a souvenir. All through the night we sang carols to them and they sang to us and one played ‘God Save the King’ on a mouth organ" (The Hertfordshire Mercury, Saturday January 9, 1915).
It took great courage for those German and British soldiers to call out to their enemy in a token of goodwill, and even more courage to then raise their heads out of earthen trenches not knowing if they would be shot. Perhaps the greatest courage was to see in their enemy someone much like themselves, someone also scared and lonely, and to then share the gift of trust, hope and peace. May we this Christmas season find courage to share the same.
Have a great Monday! Thanks for letting me share.
p.s. Take 15 minutes today to enjoy one of the many renditions of the Christmas Truce and explore your own courage.