The Christmas Truce by Ron White Memory Expert and USA Memory Champion
It was referred to as the war to end all wars. Yet, two decades after World War I the world found itself once again entrenched in a global battle. Why was the First World War referred to as the war to end all wars? It earned this name because it was believed that with all the modern weapons of war, no nation would dare attack another for the sure bloodshed that would follow. The destruction of the First World War was horrific, with over 10 million giving their lives in the name of their country.
In the midst of this brutality, death and destruction, one of the most peculiar sights in human history evolved on a Christmas night in 1914. On this incredible night almost a century ago, soldiers on the Western Front did the unthinkable. Only days and perhaps hours before, these men had found themselves frozen to the bone in the cold rain and mud. The sound of mortars still rang in their ears. The sight of their brothers in arms falling to the ground from a volley of bullets was still fresh in their minds. Yet, something remarkable was about to take place on this Christmas Eve.
It was a truce in the fighting initiated by the low-ranking men selected to do the fighting and dying. By all accounts this Christmas truce was not started by the British. It was, in fact, a result of the actions of the Germans. Yes, the country that it had become easy to vilify during this time period because of their horrific leaders and government policies was in fact a nation of people with hearts like you and me. These German soldiers lobbed a chocolate cake into the trenches of the British. Imagine that; you are used to seeing grenades land in your trench and instead the enemy has lobbed a chocolate cake with a request for an hour truce. The truce was for a birthday party for their captain. The truce was granted.
As a soldier in this war, it was comforting to know that your enemy was in the same miserable conditions that you were—the cold, the mud and the stench of death. Remarkably, it was in these conditions that a truce was born, and soon Christmas carols burst out from the trenches of the Germans, once again, an olive branch. The British were at first reluctant and rightfully so; this was war and any trick is fair game in war. Although, it was recognized for what it was. Men with hearts, moms, dads, children, hobbies, girlfriends, wives and compassion overcome with that compassion on the anniversary of the greatest sacrifice in the history of mankind. It was Christmas and the anniversary of the birth of a man who laid down his life for others, and the Germans were overcome with this spirit.
That Christmas Eve soldiers who had been engaged in the war referred to as “the war to end all wars” because of this brutality tossed their weapons of destruction aside and embraced, sang Christmas songs and even wandered the battlefield playing soccer with each other and sharing cigarettes. It has been said that hundreds and as many as thousands participated in this most magical holiday truce.
There is something about this time of year that you can’t pinpoint. It is something that you can’t put your finger on. It is a spirit that is in the air. It is a spirit that begs you to forget differences, embrace those you love and even those you don’t. It challenges you to give until you can’t give anymore. Sometimes the cloud of challenges in life can spur a person to brush aside the undeniable feelings that are in the air at Christmas. Too often the pressures of life can convince you the spirit of joy and giving that you are sensing is nothing more than a coincidence of the time of year. In 1914, a handful of low ranking German soldiers knew that what they felt in their hearts about Christmas was true.
These men did not brush aside the impromptu feelings of peace and love for their fellow man. Instead, they lobbed a chocolate cake and a note of truce. I encourage you to allow yourself to be overcome this Christmas with the same spirit that took these soldiers captive almost a century ago. You may feel you are entrenched in some kind of your own personal battle. If so, allow yourself to be overwhelmed with the spirit of giving and joy, and toss a chocolate cake out there. You just might be surprised at the outcome.