On December 25, 1914 during a war that would go on to kill and wound tens of millions of soldiers, the western front and possibly other parts of the eastern front went quiet in observation of Christmas.
Opposing sides stopped firing and laid down their rifles to celebrate what should be the most peaceful day of the year by declaring their own peace, at least for a day.
This was the Christmas Truce between German and British armies that began with Christmas carols on Christmas Eve, an important event and story that lives on in history.
How Did The Christmas Truce Come About?
According to historical sources, the Christmas Truce of World War I came about when German soldiers in one part of the western front, weary from battle and anticipating an upcoming end to the fighting, decided that they would not raise their rifles on that Christmas Day in 1914.
The rumors spreading through the troops on both sides of the battle were that the war would be over by Christmas or soon thereafter.
While this was unfortunately not true, the idea brought hope at that moment to those on the battlefield, hope that may have contributed to the decision to call a truce on Christmas Day, even if just for that one day.
Beginning on Christmas Eve and continuing into Christmas day, British soldiers were greeted not by the gunfire they might have expected, but by quiet and then the sounds of Christmas carols.
German soldiers sang the notable songs and raised signs proclaiming peace for a day, asking for the opposing side to not shoot at them.
The British complied and for a sacred few hours, the men on both sides of the war shared a special moment of peace.
They played soccer, talked about their families at home, and even exchanged presents by trading food, cigarettes, buttons, and other personal items.
By the following day, it would all be in the past as commanders regained control of their troops and the shooting resumed - yet for that short period of time, those soldiers who did not even agree with the war became friends and existed together in peace.
Did It Really Happen?
It is a wonderful story, isn’t it? It is also a story that many people believe is false, that it was propaganda used to placate the public that was so against the war.
Some said that it was presented as a softening of the truth used to keep nations invested by making it seem like the war was not as bad as it really was.
Yet there is evidence of its truth to counter the claims of propaganda.
Stories of this event were passed down from the soldiers themselves as were carefully preserved hand-written letters describing the events in detail, matching the accounts of others telling the same tale.
The image included here was published in The Illustrated Londone News on January 9, 1915.
While there may be disagreement over what exactly happened on that day, we do know that the fighting did stop on that day in observance of Christmas.
Commemorate The Christmas Truce
Though it happened more than a century ago, the Christmas Truce is an important date for all who have served in the military as well as those who understand the risk and the meaning of this special moment in history.
As a special living history event, the Museum of the American G.I. will be presenting a Christmas Truce event during which you can share that special time with us on December 11 and 12, 2021.
Our living history museum event will include a Christmas Truce presentation and trench tours offering a realistic experience of what it was like on that Christmas Day in 1914.
Find more information about this living history Christmas Truce event on our website here, and we hope to see you in December!
Come Share In The Christmas Truce Event