7th Day Christmas Past Question & Story

Posted by on Dec 18, 2017 in Christmas Past 2017 | 19 comments

On the 7th Day of Christmas Past, rekindling history to enhance today’s Light the World – “Forgive men their trespasses.” 
Question:  What temporary forgiveness was shown during Christmas over a century ago and is still seen as a miracle today?

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“Christmas Truce 1914”

World War I Christmas Truce

“On a crisp, clear morning over 100 years ago, thousands of British, Belgian and French soldiers put down their rifles, stepped out of their trenches and spent Christmas mingling with their German enemies along the Western front. In the hundred years since, the event has been seen as a kind of miracle, a rare moment of peace just a few months into a war that would eventually claim over 15 million lives. But what actually happened on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day of 1914 — and did they really play soccer on the battlefield?

Pope Benedict XV, who took office that September, had originally called for a Christmas truce, an idea that was officially rejected. Yet it seems the sheer misery of daily life in the cold, wet, dull trenches was enough to motivate troops to initiate the truce on their own — which means that it’s hard to pin down exactly what happened. A huge range of differing oral accounts, diary entries and letters home from those who took part make it virtually impossible to speak of a “typical” Christmas truce as it took place across the Western front. To this day historians continue to disagree over the specifics: no one knows where it began or how it spread, or if, by some curious festive magic, it broke out simultaneously across the trenches. Nevertheless, some two-thirds of troops — about 100,000 people — are believed to have participated in the legendary truce.

Most accounts suggest the truce began with carol singing from the trenches on Christmas Eve, “a beautiful moonlit night, frost on the ground, white almost everywhere”, as Pvt. Albert Moren of the Second Queens Regiment recalled, in a document later rounded up by the New York Times. Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade described it in even greater detail:

“First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing ­– two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”

The next morning, in some places, German soldiers emerged from their trenches, calling out “Merry Christmas” in English. Allied soldiers came out warily to greet them. In others, Germans held up signs reading “You no shoot, we no shoot.” Over the course of the day, troops exchanged gifts of cigarettes, food, buttons and hats. The Christmas truce also allowed both sides to finally bury their dead comrades, whose bodies had lain for weeks on “no man’s land,” the ground between opposing trenches.

The phenomenon took different forms across the Western front. One account mentions a British soldier having his hair cut by his pre-war German barber; another talks of a pig-roast. Several mention impromptu kick-abouts with makeshift soccer balls, although, contrary to popular legend, it seems unlikely that there were any organized matches.

The truce was widespread but not universal. Evidence suggests that in many places firing continued — and in at least two a truce was attempted but soldiers attempting to fraternize were shot by opposing forces.

And of course, it was only ever a truce, not peace. Hostilities returned, in some places later that day and in others not until after New Year’s Day. “I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence,” one veteran from the Fifth Batallion the Black Watch, Alfred Anderson, later recalled to The Observer. “It was a short peace in a terrible war.” As the Great War resumed, it wreaked such destruction and devastation that soldiers became hardened to the brutality of the war. While there were occasional moments of peace throughout the rest of World War I, they never again came on the scale of the Christmas truce in 1914.

Yet for many at the time, the story of the Christmas truce was not an example of chivalry in the depths of war, but rather a tale of subversion: when the men on the ground decided they were not fighting the same war as their superiors. With no man’s land sometimes spanning just 100 feet, enemy troops were so close that they could hear each other and even smell their cooking. The commander of the British Second Corps, General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, believed this proximity posed “the greatest danger” to the morale of soldiers and told Divisional Commanders to explicitly prohibit any “friendly intercourse with the enemy.” In a memo issued on Dec. 5, he warned that: “troops in trenches in close proximity to the enemy slide very easily, if permitted to do so, into a ‘live and let live’ theory of life.”

Indeed, one British soldier, Murdoch M. Wood, speaking in 1930, said: “I then came to the conclusion that I have held very firmly ever since, that if we had been left to ourselves there would never have been another shot fired.” Adolf Hitler, then a Corporal of the 16th Bavarians, saw it differently: “Such a thing should not happen in wartime,” he is said to have remarked. “Have you no German sense of honor?”

Still, a century later, the truce has been remembered as a testament to the power of hope and humanity in a truly dark hour of history.  To mark the centenary this year in 2014, Prince William unveiled a memorial on Dec. 12, 2014: a metal frame representing a soccer ball, with two hands clasped inside it, and a week later, inspired by the events of the truce, the British and German army soccer teams played a friendly match. And though the Christmas Truce may have been a one-off in the conflict, the fact that it remains so widely commemorated speaks to the fact that at its heart it symbolizes a very human desire for peace, no matter how fleeting.”

Taken from:

Taken on 12/17/2017 from http://time.com/3643889/christmas-truce-1914/

Taken on 12/17/2017 from http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/christmas-truce-of-1914

“Light the World” is a 25 day Christ-like service celebration from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Visit Mormon.org for more information.

    19 Comments

  1. During the Christmas of 1914, soldiers on both sides stopped fighting for a brief time and shared peace and forgiveness. Many of these soldiers wished that they could have kept this peace and forgiveness afterwards.

  2. A rare moment of peace. The soldiers hearts were softened if only for a few days because of the spirit of Christmas.

  3. When people have a desire for peace, they can put aside what they are compelled to do and show love even for their enemies, as the soldiers in the German and British armies in 1914 showed. It was a miracle then as they followed their hearts. Many of those fighting in wars today would rather have peace, but must do as they’re ordered. When all nations and people come together in peace, it will truly be a miracle.

  4. During WW I in 1914, the troops from both sides entered into an unannounced and impromptu truce. They shared Christmas songs and activities along the Western front. The general message that came from this is that all people long for peace by natural inclination and nature.

  5. It was inspiring to see that admid such conflict, men could put aside their differences for a short time. It was made possible through the spirit of Christ. When we let Christ into our lives, anything is possible.

  6. In this instance, Christmas carols seem to have inspired widespread,although temporary, examples of our deep desire for the peace that comes from following the teachings of the Savior.

  7. I love to hear this inspiring and miracle story of a brief moment of forgiveness every time! I didn’t know about the possible soccer game that might have occured. I agree with Ginger…it’s a natural inclination to seek after peace, even at people’s worst.

  8. The temporary forgiveness that was shown occurred with the miraculous truce in various areas along the waterfront in 1914 between the German and British soldiers. The Christmas spirit that so many of them offered to one another with exchanging small gifts, singing carols, and even the simplicity of offering peace while the other side buried their dead was incredibly kind.

  9. The fact that the opposing forces in WWI held a truce on Christmas Day in 1914 is truly a miracle. It was a brutal war and brutal tactics were introduced. Even one man remarked that if they were left to themselves another shot wouldn’t have been fired. Light can always be found, even in the darkest places and darkest circumstances.

  10. The temporary forgiveness was peace good will toward all men. Its just to bad it couldn’t have lasted longer. There are no barrier between countries when singing familiar songs, peace can exist even if it is for a few moments

  11. The Spirit of Christ which fills the heart at this time of year is a spirit of peace and brotherly love. Though outward circumstances can dim this Spirit, there are times (especially around Christmas) where the light of Christ shines in men’s hearts in a way that is too powerful to extinguish.

  12. World War 1 was a horrific war but on one special day the fighting stopped and Christmas was celebrated as best they could on both sides coming together and singing carols. Inspires me to put aside my differences and forgive at this Christmas time.

  13. Pope Benedict XV became Pope September 1914. He had originally called for a Christmas truce, an idea that was officially rejected. It motivated some troops to initiate the truce on their own. Christmas morning came and German Soldiers called a temporary truce in many different ways. Some emerged from their trenches, calling out “Merry Christmas” in English. Others held up signs reading “You no shoot, we no shoot.” The miracle was some troops from opposing sides exchanged gifts of cigarettes, food, buttons and hats. In some areas it also allowed both sides to finally bury their dead comrades. Whose bodies had lain for weeks on “no man’s land,” the ground between opposing trenches.

  14. The temporary forgiveness and miracle was that, that fighting stopped on Christmas Day and gift exchanging was happening between enemies. During the WWI Christmas of 1914 the soldiers from British, Belgian and French stop fighting on Christmas Day with their enemies the Germans. They exchanged gifts, food, and other items. Some were even able to recover the bodies of their comrades whom had lain for weeks on “no man’s land,” Allowing them bury them and probably send word home.

  15. The Christmas Truce during WWI. Where troops on both sides stopped fighting for Christmas and sang carols and exchanged gifts.

  16. During Christmas 1914 many of the troops on the opposite sides of “no man’s land” between the trenches put down their weapons and visited with each other. Interestedly, in one area it started with both sides singing “Adeste Fideles” showing a common belief in the real meaning of Christmas. Sadly, after the short truce, the brutal war continued fro a few more years.

  17. I have always been touched by the events of the Christmas truce of 1914, and feel that it is a testimony of the basic goodness of the human spirit. I am grateful that it happened, and it brings me hope!

  18. A Christmas Truce was suggested during World War I, in 1914, on Christmas. Although not everywhere, there were miracles that took place on that day. Peace on Earth, Good will toward men took on a different meaning that day as these tired, cold, worn out soldiers “giving hope and humanity in a truly dark hour of history.”

  19. Love is eternal and the temporary forgiveness described in this story is a clear reminder of that deep-seeded nature that continues within us. God is good… and as God is, man may become.

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