November 11, 2009

The Christmas Truce.

In my part of the world, the Remembrance/Veteran Day is not observed. Considering that I have made so many friends here that do commemorate this special day, it feels appropriate to dedicate a post to this subject.

This day in history, the 11th of November, marked the end of the first World War in 1918. Growing up in Eastern Bloc, the facts and traces of both World Wars were ever so present through out my childhood. In fact, my grandfather -my fathers father- witnessed the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on 28 June 1914 in Bosnia-Herzegovina, an event that started the WWI.

Wars are filled with horrors and unimaginable atrocities, showing mankind from it's worst side. However, in parallel, they also produce unsung heroes and bring out the best in people, often highlighting that ultimately we are all the same. Thus raising the irony in the whole purpose of the battles.
I have always felt strong empathy for the ordinary people involved in wars. Those nameless soldiers, that no one knows about. That no one ever writes about. In every war, there is immense suffering of the common man - from any country, on any side - that only does his duty and knows nothing of politics and the struggle for power and land, that is the elusive cause of the war he is fighting.

In history of the first world war, the notion of a particular event has effected me deeply; the occurrence of the so called Christmas Truce. The term describes brief unofficial cease of fights, taking place on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day between German and British or French troops in World War I, particularly that between British and German troops stationed along the Western Front during Christmas 1914.

As quoted from the Wikipedia:

"The truce began on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1914, when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium, for Christmas. They began by placing candles on trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols, most notably Stille Nacht (Silent Night). The British troops in the trenches across from them responded by singing English carols.

The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were calls for visits across the "No Man's Land" where small gifts were exchanged — whiskey, jam, cigars, chocolate, and the like. The soldiers exchanged gifts, sometimes addresses, and drank together. 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. Proper burials took place as soldiers from both sides mourned the dead together and paid their respects.

The truce spread to other areas of the lines, and there are many stories of football matches between the opposing forces.

In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night, but in some areas, it continued until New Year's Day."


Reading Tea Leaves said...

Oh Zuzana, with such eloquence you have summed up so completely my views too - I wanted to write something like this with my Monday poem but I couldn't find the right words! The Christmas Day truce in WWI was an incredible act of empathy on both sides by the men fighting this totally tragic war and stirs up much emotion.

My own dear father was in another war - WWII. At the age of 18 he was in the bomb disposal unit for the RAF. He rarely spoke of his experiences.

I wish your handsome Irishman a very happy birthday and hope you are reunited soon.

Jeanne xxx

Elizabeth said...

Have a day filled with love and the memories they leave behind.

Elizabeth said...

Have a day filled with love and the memories they leave behind.

MsTypo said...

First off, happy birthday to the Irishman!! :)

I had heard about the Christmas Truce but never before known the details.

Nessa said...

Happy Birthday to your Irishman.

I am Austrian on my mother;s side. My great grandmother cried when the Arch Duke was assassinated. What happened after that made her cry even more.

Wordless Wednesday

Brian Miller said...

happy birthday to your Irishman. An interesting slice of history that breathes the humanity of those in the trenches fighting for the ideals of their leaders.

Sandi McBride said...

What a beautiful post. I thank you for it. There is a song on my music player called Belleau Wood about the Christmas truce...done by Garth Brooks, it's lovely...
as is your post...happy birthday to the Irishman...

Hilary said...

A lovely Remembrance Day post, Z. Thank you so much for writing about the Christmas Truce. That sentiment is so touching.

Happy Birthday to P! :) I know that with Z, you already have the best gift ever. :)

steviewren said...

I didn['t know about this event either until I watched this movie and then did some research of my own. It's very good. You'll like it if you can get a copy of it.

Happy Birthday to the Irishman!

G said...

That tale of the Christmas truce is one of the most moving I've ever heard. Have you ever seen the film "Oh, What a Lovely War"? I believe it's depicted in that film, which is a satirical dark look at the horrors of WWI.

Happy Birthday to your Irishman!

sage said...

Wow, your grandfather witnessed that assassination! The Christmas truce is a heartwarming story. Happy birthday to your Irishman!

Keith said...

Happy Birthday to the Irishman.

Great post. I love reading about the Christmas truce.

War definitely can bring out the worst in humanity, but it also can bring out the best. There are so many heroes during wartime. Many of them never get the honor and recognition they deserve.

I've had family members who have fought and died in wars. One of my uncles died during World War II. I never knew him. I can always remember being told stories about him from my paternal grandmother (his sister).

I salute all the veterans.

Claus said...

Remembrance day is not part of our holidays either, but I do often think - mainly when I watch documentaries on any type of conflict and war - about those who fought and gave their lives. What would their lives had been like if there hadn't been any war? Would they gotten married? Children and granchildren later? Maybe successful businessmen? A day to appreciate those who made it through, and those who gave their lives for many.

Congratulations to the Irishman as well! Well done to him for making you so happy :-)

Jill from Killeny Glen said...

Happy Birthday to the Irishman that makes our Zuzana happy!

I love your tribute to the UN sung heroes as there were so many in EVERY war.

It absolutely warms my heart that in the midst of that HORRIBLE war there was some tiny piece of joy for these soldiers on that Christmas in 1914.

Rosezilla (Tracie Walker) said...

What a beautiful post. Happy Birthday to your Irishman. He sounds like the right kind of a man (He sounds a lot like my man!). Most of what I learned about WWI was in 7th grade when we had a clever teacher; she had us do a newspaper for the day after the Lusitania was sunk. It was our front page news. We had depts. for fashion and lifestyles, sports, classified, everything you'd find in a newspaper, and it all had to be as historically accurate as we could make it. I find the Christmas truce incredibly touching, and then impossible to ponder how they then went back to shooting at each other. Can't imagine their feelings at that point. I think you are right about all the "ordinary" soldiers and their families. My husband always mentions that about the Bible, too, all the quiet Christians who just quietly lived out their faithful lives... so interesting to think about. (Sorry my comment is so long! :)

♥Mimi♥ said...

What a lovely blog post. Your candor in sharing is remarkable. Thank you so much for giving us a little peek into your world and your heart.

Maria said...

A beautiful post. There's always something lovely to read over here!

Oh, & happy birthday to him!

sprinkles said...

Happy Birthday to the Irishman!

I guess I must've been out sick the day they taught about the Christmas Truce at school because this is the first I've heard of it. Thanks again for the wonderful education I've gotten from stopping by every day!

Stacey J. Warner said...


What a wonderful tribute to your husband. It gave me chills.

I hope someday war will not exist. It makes NO sense to me.

much love

Jeannette StG said...

You are writing in a way it touches people, Zuzanna!
Especially when the 2 countries are fighting each other are both believing in the Christ child, war is so foolish!! Thanks for sharing this.
And happy birthday to your Irish man!!

Holly said...

Wow, what a lovely post!! Thank you Z!! Happy Veterans day to you.

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

Whew! What a moving post. Amazing how we can go to war, do such horrific things, and seem to forget (repress?) the fact of our "foes'" humanity. Thanks for this account of a time when that dehumanizing aspect of war was lifted for a moment. Gives me lots to think about. Here in the US we have been so sheltered from war...

Hear, hear for the Irishman! C

Zuzana said...

Jeanne, Elizabeth, Cairo, Nessa, Brian, Sandi, Hilary, Stevie, BPG, sage, Keith, Claudia, Jill, Rosezilla (I love comments, especially the long ones;), Mimi, gaelikaa, sprinkles, Stacey, jeannette, Holly and C; thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your lovely and touching comments.

I appreciate that you all take the time to stop by and read what I have to say.;) Sorry about not responding individually today, I am finding myself out of time. Thank you also for your best wishes to the Irishman.
Your kind words mean more than I can adequately express.


julochka said...

we recently watched the series about WWII on DR2, but i had never heard this story of the Christmas Truce. it really took my breath away! wow! hope the irishman had a great birthday!

United Studies said...

I enjoy reading these posts of yours because I find that period of history fascinating. However, I am like you....I enjoy reading historical novels and books, but am fascinated by the stories of the ordinary people. I cannot tell you much about all the generals during WW1 or WW2, but I am fascinated with learning about how the wars affected the ordinary citizens. Those are the people I enjoy learning about.

Does that make sense?

Happy Belated Birthday to your Irishman!

Zuzana said...

julochka and Jacki, thank you both very much ladies, your kind words are much appreciated.

Richard Jesse Watson said...

Thank you for this beautiful post. Wars are perpetuated by arms dealers and bureaucrats, but they are fought by the sons and daughters of farmers, and bakers and factory workers. Our global tribe must learn to love and forgive one another, to walk in each others shoes.

Lynne said...

An excellent post Zuzana.
I'm surprised to find that there doesn't appear to be an acknowledgement here in Germany of the significance of 11th November. Although I believe it is recognised at other times.

Zuzana said...

thank you so much and thank you for your very kind comment, that rings so very true. Delighted to have you visiting.

I agree, I have no idea why Denmark neither observes this day in history.
Thank you so much for your kind words and for stopping by dear friend.