The Christmas Truce of 1914

Alice tells us about important historical events that took place during this festive period.

The First World War claimed 11,000,000 military lives and 7,000,000 civilian’s lives. Yet, when it began in July 1914 it was supposed to be finished by Christmas. The reality was far from this. By November 1914, there was a stalemate and a continuous line of defence formed on both sides, running from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier. The War was fiercely entrenched by Christmas 1914 and the end did not seem near. However, despite the despairing conditions, both the allies and the Germans were able to form unofficial Christmas truce’s up and down the Western Front. Scenes of exchanging souvenirs, singing Christmas Carols, and playing football on no-man’s land were beautifully portrayed in the Sainsburys 2014 Christmas advert. This creative piece of advertisement symbolised a greater moment of history to be remembered at such a festive time, which adequately marked the War’s centenary.

Glazing lights, warm colours, the hustle and bustle in wintery markets, tuneful carols; it must be Christmas. As much as I love Christmas and all the trimmings, as a history student there are important historical events during the festive period which catch my attention. Christmas 1066, William the Conqueror was crowned King of England and transformed English history; fast-forward to 1968 and Apollo 8 orbited the moon on Christmas Eve. Some may even call Band-Aid a moment of history. Yet, there is one event which I have always found perplexingly awe-inspiring, that is the Christmas Truce of 1914.

 

Most Christmas adverts encompass the stereotypical ideas of Christmas; scrumptious food, gift giving and stocking filler ideas. Aldi’s famous Kevin the carrot caused such a stir last month, that anxious parents were flocking to the stores and reportedly used trolleys as weapons just to get a hold of the 3ft novelty carrot toy for a Christmas present. Whilst these adverts do bring joy and excitement for the festive period, I cannot help but wonder if we need more thought provoking adverts such as that of Sainsburys 2014 to emulate the real meanings of Christmas. The advert provided a source of information for many who may not have previously heard of the Christmas Truce. The football game played on no-man’s land between the allies and the Germans truly symbolises the meaning of Christmas and the real strength and compassion of humanity. The bravery it must have took for the men on both sides to climb out of their trenches and come face to face with their opposition is undeniable. There is much historical debate whether this game was more of a casual kick about, or if there were scores kept and if so, who won? Regardless of the details, the game stripped back the soldiers and their orders to bare humanity. It represented that the men fighting were ordinary citizens, just like one another. This humanity was made possible due to the meaning and popularity of Christmas.

Source: Independent, ‘Christmas Day truce 1914: Letter from trenches shows football match through soldier’s eyes for first time’, 2014.

There were reports that during the festive period, the opposing sides shouted to one another we won’t fight if you don’t. Christmas was a time of peacefulness and a time to respect one another. The period holds such a strong influence over the morality of people that fighting was far from what any soldier wished to do in 1914. Today, we can learn a lot from the Christmas Truce. Christmas, despite the modern-day pressures of presents and grand meals, represents a time to reflect, to respect and appreciate others, and shows how simple acts such as a game of football can mean far more to someone than any gift can.

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