Imagine a war with soldiers battling each other one day, firing their rifles from the trenches only a few hundred feet apart, with shells exploding around them.
And the next day, soldiers from opposing sides laying down their guns, meeting each other, singing Christmas carols, and eating plum pudding together.
That’s what happened one hundred years ago today during World War I at several Western Front battlefields.
It all started Christmas Eve when British and German soldiers began singing Christmas carols to each other from their trenches.
At dawn on Christmas Day, the soldiers left their trenches, greeted each other in the “no-man’s land” separating the two lines, shared cigarettes, exchanged stories, ate, and drank together.
Despite the battles that had started five months before, soldiers put aside their differences, and joined in celebrating Christmas. How incredible.
Here’s one memory of the truce, a letter written by Private Frederick W. Heath, a British soldier stationed near the town of Arras on the Western Front.
Here was no desire to kill, but just the wish of a few simple soldiers (and no one is quite so simple as a soldier) that on Christmas Day, at any rate, the force of fire should cease.
We gave each other cigarettes and exchanged all manner of things. We wrote our names and addresses on the field service postcards, and exchanged them for German ones. We cut the buttons off our coats and took in exchange the Imperial Arms of Germany.
But the gift of gifts was Christmas pudding. The sight of it made the Germans’ eyes grow wide with hungry wonder, and at the first bite of it they were our friends for ever. Given a sufficient quantity of Christmas puddings, every German in the trenches before ours would have surrendered.
…All through the day no shot was fired, and all we did was talk to each other and make confessions which, perhaps, were truer at that curious moment than in the normal times of war.
Updated December 25, 2015 to reference the Independent’s article of Private Heath’s letter, since The Christmas Truce website is no longer online.