Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The Christmas Truce


If there's something that makes me cry, it's the Christmas Truce that took place during the First World War. The more I think about it, the more it strikes me as one of the most beautiful and one of the saddest things that ever happened in history. Every Christmas, I find myself sitting in this trance, thinking about what it must have been like - what those lads must have felt. Last Christmas, it was mentioned several times, even in Queen Elizabeth's Christmas speech, because it marked 100 years since it happened, and since then I just can't get over it. It must have been amazing, emotional, terrible, beautiful; all at the same time.

Imagine you are a soldier in the cold, stony trenches. You've seen people die, you've suffered. You've shot men of the other side, doing your duty. You've probably seen some of your very own school-friends die; you've seen wounds, heard screams of pain and nightmares. I know life in the trenches must have been ghastly. My great-grandfather served in WW1, and my father says that he would never talk about it. People were traumatized for life.


I am currently writing a story, which has a thick chapter about a soldier telling his war story. I suppose this is a good excuse to show you some snippets. 
Douglas got killed. I saw him fall down. Part of an explosion bomb hit him on the chest. I saw his hat fly into a puddle, and I saw his khaki vest drenched with blood. I thank the Lord that I didn’t see more than that. I am traumatized enough.  
Michael and I clung on to each other. But he died, too. In the gas. The last thing I saw, Jane, was his face, yelling, getting more distant in the gas. I heard him yell. “Lionel! Lionel!”

And then you had that one Christmas, in the middle of it all, when several hundreds of men decided to have peace and get together in No Man's Land. They sang Silent Night Together, the British lads and the German lads. They played football together, gave each other gifts, swapped coats and hats, lighted each other's cigarettes. They took photographs of them together, casually giving each other hugs. They wished each other a Merry Christmas.

You see now why this makes me cry? The men weren't at war, the Countries were. The men so weren't. They were just doing their duty - they could totally be best friends with the Other Side.

"First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up O Come, All Ye Faithful, the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is a most extraordinary thing — two nations singing the same carol in the middle of a war."
"I walked across to my man and shook hands, I asked him how he liked it. ‘Terrible, I wish I was back in Germany’ (in Good English!). I wanted a souvenir so I took my knife out of my pocket and he let me cut a button from his coat. I could only give him a few old biscuits from my pocket."
"Eventually the English brought a soccer ball from their trenches, and pretty soon a lively game ensued. How marvellously 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 for a time... I told them we didn’t want to shoot on the Second Day of Christmas either. They agreed."
"Really you would hardly have thought we were at war. Here we were, enemy talking to enemy. They [are] like ourselves with mothers, with sweethearts, with wives waiting to welcome us home again. And to think within a few hours we shall be firing at each other again."
"They say they won’t fire tomorrow if we don’t so I suppose we shall get a bit of a holiday — perhaps. After exchanging autographs and them wishing us a Happy New Year we departed and came back and had our dinner. We can hardly believe that we’ve been firing at them for the last week or two — it all seems so strange." 
"Even as I write, I can scarcely credit what I have seen and done. It has been a wonderful day."

(Actual WW1 letters about the Christmas Truce.)


War is so pointless - so ridiculously pointless. The Christmas Truce shows that more vividly than anything else can. These chaps were just... chaps. They fought against each other, killed each other - while they should have played football together every day. Imagine what they must have felt like, when they said goodbye after their time together in no-man's-land. They must have felt so emotional; they must have looked at each other and thought, "Tomorrow I might kill you."

It just breaks me, okay? Shush. Don't talk to me. Just watch this beautiful Christmas ad about it. You will probably cry, because I always do, and I've watched it loads of times. (And the music is from 'True Grit', if that makes some of you want to see it. Heh, heh.)



"Thus Christmas, the celebration of Love, managed to bring mortal enemies together for a time..." (A WW1 letter.)

29 comments:

  1. WAAAAAAH *sniffs* I'm totally not crying. nope.. not at all

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  2. I was nodding my head along to this, thinking how sweet and awful it would be, and then you put up the video and I was excited. And then you mentioned True Grit and I perked up twice as much. ;-) I watched the video and....oh, there are no words. I saw it once, and watched the 'behind the scenes' and the 'story behind it' and then watched it again, and yet again with my mother. That's a powerful little video, right there. ;-) It's so simple, so touching, so meaningful.....it sends shivers down your spine. It shows how war is really, as you said, pointless, and more political than anything else. (On that line, I hope you stay safe, Naomi. I know it must be scary being so close to where all those dreadful things were happening. :-() And also, how come our 'Christmas add's are like, PATHETIC compared to that?!
    Oh, and also, I can sing Adeste Fideles. :-D Off by heart! :-)
    ~Miss Meg

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    1. Dear Miss Meg! Thank you for your sweet comment.

      I know, right? Isn't the video amazing? I've seen the 'behind the scenes' and the 'story behind it' videos too, many times. And yes, I had to show my mother too. GAH. THAT video. I just love it wayyy to much. I had to share it with you all. :-)
      Thank you, we're safe. We go to Church in Brussels, so we were thinking of not going last Sunday - but we did, in the end, because they said Sunday mornings weren't dangerous. We saw soldiers and police-men, and even some big tanks! Also, my dad (who's a teacher) has been home for two days because schools have been closed.
      Thank you for the comment!

      ~ Naomi

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    2. Oh, and our ads are pathetic too. This is definitely an amazing exception. :-)

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  3. THIS IS THE BEST COMMERCIAL EVER!!!!! Oh my gosh....my heart is breaking!!!! What an amazing story of what went on during WWII. I never even knew about this. It truly shows the magic of Christmas where everyone comes together and celebrates no matter who you are of where you came from. Thank you for sharing Naomi!
    -Madison
    www.1minniemuse.blogspot.com

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    1. AHHH I KNOW RIGHT?!! I watched it first last year, and I couldn't stop thinking about it for days. I'm still not over it. :-)
      I'm so glad I was the one to tell you of this, Madison! I feel so special! :-)

      ~ Naomi

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  4. Oh. My. Word.

    That video.

    It's phenomenal.

    The end.

    I loved it!!!!!!! Thanks so much for sharing it. It's so happy and so sad at the same time. Just . . . I CAN'T EVEN. I wish we had ads like that over here in America. (Okay, we do have some good ones, I'm not complaining. It's just been a long time since I've seen one as good as THAT.)

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    1. I KNEW EVERYONE WOULD LOVE THE VIDEO. Gosh, I'm so happy to finally talk about that video with you guys - I've mooned and cried over it for so long. :-) (I couldn't wait for Christmas to share it.)

      Our ads aren't always this good. This one blew me away, which means I'm not used to it being that good. :-D

      ~ Naomi

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    2. Yeah . . . our ads aren't ALWAYS bad, either . . . and some are actually really good (like, FUNNY), but they aren't usually as "profound" as that one. The PBS ads (that's our public TV station) can sometimes be very nice.

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  5. Oh my word. That was so beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing that video. I wish our adds were that poignant and meaningful.

    I had heard of the Christmas Truce, and always that of how sad it was. The fact that those boys were making friends, and only were fighting because they were told to. May this always remind us how pointless war is sometimes.

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    1. Abigail, as I told Jessica, our ads are not all like that! I wish they were. But yes, this one is AMAZING. I can't get enough of it.

      I know. Those boys could totally have been best friends. The war was ridiculously pointless.

      ~ Naomi

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  6. Oh gosh, that was so amazing!! Just . . . I have just no words. JUST BEAUTIFUL.

    I always feel sad about that too. When I hear the song "Christmas 1915" I always feel like crying. Here's the link, if you haven't heard it. It will blow you away.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JG3l-OBdcPI

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    1. I know. There are no words. :-)

      AHHH THAT SONG. That song is so beautiful! Thank you for showing me! :-)

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    2. You're welcome :D And BTW, I really liked your snippets. Sounds like a powerful novel, that.

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  7. Oh, my. I love stories like this, of beautiful humanity in the middle of cruel wars. (There are so many stories like that from the Civil War -- which, as you probably know, is the most near to my heart.) The way you put it was perfect -- the nations were at war, but the men SO weren't.

    I've heard a little about the Christmas Truce in WWI. It reminds me of another storyI heard a WWII veteran tell once, which is foggy in my mind.....something about German soldiers and American soldiers singing 'Silent Night' together on Christmas Eve. Stuff like that is so POWERFUL.

    I enjoyed your story snippets. :-) Oh, and I totally thought those excerpts from letters were something you'd written until I got to the bottom and saw they weren't! (I thought, wow, I knew Naomi could write, but I didn't know she was THIS good. ;-P)

    Thanks for retelling the story, Naomi.

    ~Emma

    P.S. I didn't watch the video yet because I've got music on right now and I don't want to pause it...but I WILL come back and watch it. You've been nagging me to watch it for months. ;-)

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    1. I know, it's so POWERFUL. There's also this scene in War Horse where a Brit and a German talk in No Mans Land, and I CRY SO MUCH. Sobbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb.

      Hahaha. Nope. I didn't write those. :-)

      AND GOODNESS YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IT YET. JUST DO OKAY.

      ~ Naomi

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  8. I'm crying right now.

    Seriously.

    The Christmas Truce is one of the most achingly beautiful things to ever happen, and you wrote a perfect tribute to it. *snifffff* THE FEELS. They're too much.

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  9. Oh my goodness, I just watched that ad and now I'm an emotional mess.

    Like, tears literally running down my face.

    IT'S SO SAD.

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    1. Eva, Oh dear, I made you cry! I was crying SO hard the first time I watched the ad. I know what state you are in right now.

      I KNOW. IT'S SO SAD. *cries forever*

      And don't you want a bar of chocolate like that now?

      ~ Naomi

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    2. YES. I do. It would cheer me up muchly. ;)

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  10. Wow, this was such an amazing video. I think it truly brings to light the fact that our "enemies" aren't always horrible people. Their leaders may be horrible and make bad decision, but we shouldn't judge every man by their leader. Thanks so much for sharing and posting!

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  11. Wow, this was amazing. I think about the Christmas truce too. Similar things happened in the American Civil War, to a lesser extent. I can't believe one company was able to put that much effort into that video for an ad! I'm glad they did it well, though. Have you heard of the movie Joyeux Noel? It's a longer version of the Christmas truce, (in English). There might be a short scene to skip, but other than that I think it's a good movie.
    Abby

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  12. Oh, Naomi. This was a really sweet post. Thank you for sharing.

    Isn't the story of the Christmas Truce a wonderful examle of the hope we have in Christ? Even in the most difficult and troubling of circumstances He's always there. And He can take the most horrific exerpience and turn it into something beautiful.

    I like how you included actual WW1 letters. It's interesting to read them and think that they were written by people who were actually there and experienced the event firsthand. So cool.

    Thanks, Naomi. :)

    ~Miss March

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  13. Great post - like Abby P mentioned you should watch 'Joyeux Noel' (Merry Christmas) it's basically a full length film version of this advert, I watch it every Christmas and always cry all the way through!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkKkAg4Ew-s

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  14. Thank you for sharing, the letters, your thoughts, and the video! It's an amazing story. There's a Christmas song about it if you're interested. It has always been a favorite. You can watch it here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEgNaaBQx18
    But, thank you again for sharing Naomi! It was beautiful reading/watching. :)
    ~Cordy

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  15. Gah, the video is so sad, I mean, some of them were just boys....And while it must have a fun day, surely they had a nagging feeling in the back of their minds that it wasn't gonna last, knowing they were going to shoot at each other again the next day... :,(.
    Oh, and yes, I hope you and your family stay safe over there :)

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  16. Ohhhhhh, I love this post. I'm literally crying as I type this.
    It's so horribly sad and heartbreaking...it reminds me of the scene in War Horse where the two German and British soldiers help Joey out of the wire. They were just ordinary boys who might have been friends if the circumstances were different. :(
    Thank you for sharing this, Naomi! I think I'll be watching that video again very soon.

    ps. Your story sounds intriguing! I do hope you'll post about it sometime. :)

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