Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.
At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. There was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer.
Some soldiers used this short-lived ceasefire for a more somber task: the retrieval of the bodies of fellow combatants who had fallen within the no-man’s land between the lines.
The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.
If you haven’t heard this story before then please read the above because it is truly remarkable. War is hell and on this day we remember our veteran’s who fought and died to protect our freedoms and make the world a better place. However, at the end of the day the soldiers on both sides are just soldiers. They are exhausted young men who just want to live through the war and see their families again. Unfortunately, many of them didn’t. This Christmas Truce of 1914 shows the humanity of both sides and how war can unnecessarily divide men of different origins and pit them against each other in a violent conflict. It is sad that we continue to see this happen and it is especially saddening to know that we will always have veterans because there will always be soldiers who need to risk their lives to protect us. When I remember that sobering fact I like to think back to this truce where the soldiers were able to temporarily abandon their military instilled bloodlust and play a friendly game of soccer on top of the fields where so many of their comrades had fallen. That is the true beauty of soccer.