“On Christmas morning , the men awoke to something strange. Absolute quiet. When they glanced over the parapets, they discovered a silent world covered by a thick, clinging fog.
An English sergeant, Alfred Self, was a bit unnerved by the lack of familiar battle noise. ‘It was so quiet, it was uncanny,’ he wrote in his diary. ‘There were no planes overhead, no observation balloons, no bombs, no rifle fire, therefore no snipers, just an occasional lark…’ Some men looked out on this strange scene and wondered if they had entered a dream world. Others prayed that the peaceful atmosphere would continue. As the fog began to lift, soldiers became aware of movement along the enemy trenches.
In one area of the battle line, German soldiers noticed that a wooden board was being held up by British soldiers with the words MERRY CHRISTMAS written in it. Several miles away, another board appeared on the German side that read, YOU NO FIGHT, WE NO FIGHT.
A German soldier wrote home that ‘it was a Christmas celebration in keeping with the command ‘Peace on earth’ and a memory which will stay with us always.’ His view was echoed by a British soldier: ‘This experience has been the most practical demonstration I have seen of ‘Peace on earth and goodwill towards men.”
-excerpts from Truce: The Day the Soliders Stopped Fighting by Jim Murphy, Newbery Honor children’s author
What a beautiful picture of peace right in the middle of war. It’s reported that some of the men hesitated, even refused to accept the brief refrain from fighting, but many fully embraced the ceasefire. This second week of Advent, this Christmas season, and beyond, may we fully embrace the Peace that surpasses all understanding. May it guard our hearts and our minds.
A NOTE ABOUT THE TEXT
Two-time Newbery Honor book author Jim Murphy brings to life a powerful narrative in history – the Christmas Truce – which occurred only months into WWI. Chapter 5, “It Was a Sight One Will Never See Again”, would make an excellent read aloud this holiday season, or any time of year. For more info on this book, click the link above. One last quote:
“…the Christmas Truce of World War I demonstrated that the combatants were more alike than not. It may have been a small step toward peace on earth, a tiny bit of light in a vast and threatening darkness, but it offered reassurance and hope that a kinder, humane spirit could prevail amid the horrible brutality of war.”