The Christmas Truce: The Prince of Peace, the Desire of Nations

From Eric Metaxas:

Every year, Sainsbury’s, Britain’s third-largest supermarket chain, airs a special Christmas ad. While the ads are often memorable, this year’s went viral as soon as it appeared.

It was a dramatic depiction of a legendary—in the best sense of that term—yet little-known event in World War I, the “Christmas Truce.”

By Christmas 1914, nearly one million men had died in less than five months of fighting along the Western Front. Men who had expected the war to be over by Christmas had settled into fortified trenches, and the war into a deadly stalemate.

But in the week leading up to Christmas something amazing happened. In scattered areas along the front, British and German soldiers began to cross the area between the trenches—known as “no man’s land”—and exchange small gifts and Christmas greetings.

Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade wrote that “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 really a most extraordinary thing—two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”

His German counterpart, Josef Sewald of the 17th Bavarian Regiment, recalled, “I shouted to our enemies that we didn’t wish to shoot and that we make a Christmas truce. I said I would come from my side and we could speak with each other. First there was silence, then I shouted once more, invited them, and the British shouted ‘No shooting!’”

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