I have reviewed my previous writings and realized that over the past few years I have resurrected a certain story almost yearly. This is not because of a lack of subject matter but due to my enjoyment of the story in the hope that the Christmas season will provide optimism to a world in need. The year 2023 is even more significant when referring to the title of this article. We are witnessing the exchange of hostages from a deadly assault in Israel and this exchange has been accomplished through the establishment of a truce between warring factions. No better time an d no more significant than to have a truce at the beginning of the Christmas season.
Christmas holds a special place in the hearts of man. It’s hard to understand just why there is such a warm feeling that envelops us like a fog moving into a high-country snow-covered meadow. A feeling of warmth, of goodwill and a feeling of peace fills our being. It is during this time that we believe that as tragic as our circumstances are, there is a future, bright and hopeful, waiting for us. It is during this period that we take time to reflect and greet neighbors that we would otherwise not even acknowledge. Yes, Christmas is a special magical time that brings out the best, even in the middle of a war.
In 1914 the world was at war; the first ever World War. America had not entered the conflict at that time but England and France were locked together in bloody fighting against Germany. It was not a quick moving war but had deteriorated to a series of static geographical areas where troops lived in muddy trenches, shivered in bitter cold and lived under constant artillery attacks. It is said that France lost an entire generation of males as suicide attacks into German machine gun positions took its toll.
Christmas of 1914 found the two great armies facing each other. France and England were both Christian based countries and Christmas held a special place in the hearts of the soldiers. Much of the Christmas traditions that we follow today originated in Germany. The Protestant doctrine had begun in Germany via Martin Luther. Even Christmas trees with candles hanging from the branches were a part of ancient Germany that sublimated westward into England and France. Christmas was present in the hearts of the combatants of World War I on both sides.
On Christmas Eve of 1914, German troops began decorating their trench lines. They placed candles along the trenches and on Christmas trees which were displayed to the enemy. The Germans then began singing Christmas carols. The English and the French returned the gesture with carols of their own. What a surreal world this must have been on a cold December night where two opposing forces that had made every effort to destroy each other and then suddenly peace settled over the artillery pocked landscape and Christmas carols filled the night air. This was not a local occurrence as it is estimated that eventually 100,000 soldiers fell under the spell.
The celebration of the greatest holiday continued and opposing troops walked into no-man’s land, shook hands and exchanged cigarettes and cigars. This was a portion of our world where no man is supposed to remain alive yet it was now a place of Christmas celebration. There were reports that soccer games also took place between the opposing armies. What an amazing time of the year where peace is possible.
Captain Robert Patrick Mile was attached to the Royal Irish Rifles and wrote home about this special Christmas day. “Friday (Christmas Day). We are having the most extraordinary Christmas Day imaginable. A sort of unarranged and quite unauthorized but perfectly understood and scrupulously observed truce exists between us and our friends in front. The funny thing is it only seems to exist in this part of the battle line – on our right and left we can all hear them firing away as cheerfully as ever. The thing started last night – a bitter cold night, with white frost – soon after dusk when the Germans started shouting ‘Merry Christmas, Englishmen’ to us. Of course, our fellows shouted back and presently large numbers of both sides had left their trenches, unarmed, and met in the debatable, shot-riddled, no man’s land between the lines. Here the agreement – all on their own – came to be made that we should not fire at each other until after midnight tonight. The men were all fraternizing in the middle (we naturally did not allow them too close to our line) and swapped cigarettes and lies in the utmost good fellowship. Not a shot was fired all night.”
Unfortunately, the cease fire did not last past Christmas and very soon both sides were doing the best they could to kill the men they had just befriended and celebrated with. On December 30th, just five days after the Christmas celebration, Captain Robert Patrick Mile of the Royal Irish Rifles was killed in action.
It would be nice to have the same experience within our own country. Let the warring parties find peace in their hearts and let the divisions be healed. As wonderful as it sounds there is one thing missing today as compared to World War I. The common denominator then was a belief in Christianity; something that unfortunately all opponents in our great nation or in a world-at-need do not always have in common.
Merry Christmas to everyone and take a moment to reflect on how special this time of the year is. It is not the presents we receive that really matters; instead, it is the Christmas cheer that we give that really makes this time of the year so special. If you want to experience the wonderments of Christmas, consider visiting the Christmas in the State Park extravaganza at Lake D’arBonne State Park. Drive throughs, Christmas caroling, a food court, Santa Clause and a lighted children’s trail will greet children of all ages.
God Bless America, Pray for the Ukraine and God Save Israel.