Friday, December 23, 2011

Life During Wartime: "Xmas Truce" (video)

Wisdom Quarterly, Noe's Buddhist Christmas; History Channel
(, Dec. 2011)

Imagine living in a time of endless war consuming country after country. But then it's the day before the night before Xmas. There is no reason to shop because you're in a ditch, with wet feet, freezing. It's not December 2011 with the US on its way to invading Iran. It's August 1914 and 10 million men are about to die in Europe -- then an unexpected and unexplained truce.

The "Christmas Truce" was a series of widespread unofficial ceasefires that took place along the Western Front. Instead of killing one another, men laid down their arms and celebrated together.

The truce began at Flander's Field around Christmas 1914, during the WW I. Parties of German and British soldiers began to exchange seasonal greetings and songs between their trenches. On occasion, the tension was reduced to the point that individuals would walk across to talk to their opposite numbers bearing gifts.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, many soldiers from both sides -- as well as, to a lesser degree, from French units -- independently ventured into "No Man's Land" (the space between opposing trenches), where they mingled, exchanging food and souvenirs.

  • When this Buddha in meditation ornament was auctioned, I simply had to bid. Its purpose on the tree is to represent diversity and tolerance for differences during the holidays. It may seem odd or even irreverent to some to have a Buddha or menorah hanging from a Christmas tree, but it is very important to me to be respectful of all beliefs.

In addition to joint burial ceremonies, several meetings ended in carol-singing. Troops from both sides even played friendly games of football (soccer) -- which were to eventually replace war as we took sports to extremes of hooliganism, mass violence, drunken debauchery and child sex trafficking in the US and possibly in the EU.

The truce is seen as a symbolic moment of peace and humanity amidst one of the most violent events of modern history

The Germans began by placing candles on their freezing trenches and on Pagan-holdover Christmas trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols.

The British responded by singing carols of their own. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon there were excursions across No Man's Land, where small gifts were exchanged, such as food, tobacco, spirits, and souvenirs such as buttons and hats.

The artillery in the region fell silent that night. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Joint services were held.

The fraternization was not, however, without its risks: Some soldiers were shot by opposing forces. In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night. In others, it continued until New Year's Day.

  • FOOTNOTE: Adolf Hitler, then a young corporal of the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry, was a notable opponent of the truce. Why? Hitter, bad; Vandals, good.

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