Wars are a very challenging and brutal part of our history.
Whatever the reasons for them are, there are rarely any real winners. All sides face losses in goals and human life.
Wars can take months or even years before they come to an end, as with the case of Word War 1.
WWI started on 28 July 1914 and ended on 11 November 1918.
It took four years for WWI to end, and even then, there were repercussions for many years to come.
Even though the war was long and brutal, something unprecedented occurred in 1914 that, learning about it today, can give us some hope for humanity, even during challenging times of war.
What was the Christmas truce?
Simply put, the Christmas truce was an unofficial ceasefire along the Western Front that occurred five months after the start of the war on the week leading up to Christmas day.
The ceasefire was widespread along the Western Front, but not every sector held truces. In some, the battles continued. In others, the truces only included retrieving the bodies of fallen soldiers.
During the truce, battles stopped, enemy sides crossed trenches, exchanged gifts, sang songs, shared stories, and even played games such as football together.
Why was the Christmas truce so unique?
Throughout history, there have been additional truces similar to the Christmas truce. What makes the Christmas truce so significant is the vast number of men involved in it and the level at which they participated.
It is an incredible lesson in human history to learn that, during one of the most violent and horrific periods in human history, two enemy sides found it in themselves to stop fighting and play football together. To share gifts and food, sing Christmas carols, and enjoy Christmas together.
How did the Christmas truce start
The Germans began lighting candles in their trenches and singing Christmas carols, to which the British responded by singing Christmas carols of their own. What soon followed was an exchange of Christmas greetings that each side shouted at the other.
Shortly after, both sides made their way to No Man's Land and began exchanging gifts, singing carols, sharing stories, playing football, and retrieving the bodies of fallen soldiers.
How long did the truce last?
The ceasefire began to take shape on the week leading up to 25 December. By Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, it had become the truce we know today. By the next day, it had begun to dwindle.
More ceasefires were arranged during the following year, although they were on a considerably lesser scale. None of them were as significant as the ceasefire during the Christmas truce. One of the main reasons for this is that commanders gave orders prohibiting truces.
What happened during the Christmas truce?
Soldiers used this ceasefire as an opportunity to retrieve the bodies of fellow combatants from the war and give them a burial. Some soldiers fell in No Man's Land, and retrieving them was impossible without a ceasefire.
The truce started with the Germans who sang Christmas carols and the British responding with Christmas carols of their own. This exchange continued throughout the ceasefire as both sides gathered to celebrate Christmas.
They exchanged items such as gifts, tokens, and food. They sang songs together, told stories, and even played football, creating some of the most incredible historic photographs of all time of soldiers from enemy sides playing football together.
What happened after the Christmas truce?
After the Christmas truce, commanders on both sides tried to prevent any further ceasefires and truces from happening by giving orders prohibiting the arrangement of ceasefires.
The commanders orders, along with the conditions of war, the loss of life, and the general nature of war, resulted in far fewer ceasefires in the following years.
The war did see more ceasefires in the following years, including during Christmas of those years, but none of them were on the scale of the 1914 Christmas truce.
One of the last examples of chivalry between enemies
History shows us many examples of truces and ceasefires, but the Christmas truce stands out from the rest of them.
It is inspiring to learn how the truce came to be, to see the photographs of enemy soldiers playing football together, singing songs, and celebrating a holiday together as friends.
Although the war lasted over three more years, this was one of the last great unofficial truces to occur.
Why is the Christmas truce so important?
The Christmas truce gives us a glimpse at a different side of war.
War is known to be as brutal as it gets, and finding a glimpse of humanity amid all the chaos and battles is not easy.
Although short and temporary, the Christmas truce showed us more than just a glimpse. During one of the worst wars in human history, in the trenches and No Man's Land, places many refer to as hell on earth, soldiers managed to create a few days of peace, and during those days, enemies came together to celebrate a holiday as friends.
This Christmas truce is one of the most remarkable events in human history. The contrast between the extremity of all-out brutal war, and the compassion and goodwill that caused battles to end and for enemies to come together and celebrate Christmas, is a fascinating aspect of human nature and how we can literally cross lines that seem unimaginable.
During wars, truces and ceasefires are common, but considering the scope of the event and the number of soldiers and sectors involved, the Christmas truce stands unique.