The “Christmas truce” is a term used to describe several brief unofficial cease-fires that occurred on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day between German and British or French troops along the Western Front in World War I.
The truce began on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1914, when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium, for Christmas. They started by placing candles on small trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols, most notably Stille Nacht (Silent Night). Scottish troops in the nearby opposing trenches then responded by singing English carols.
The remarkable events that followed were described by Spencer W. Kimball – later an Apostle and the 12th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – in an account that is as relevant in our day of “wars and rumors of wars” as when it was first shared in 1932.
Christmas Peace During War
Spencer W. Kimball
“One Christmas during the World War, when no-man’s-land between the trenches was white with snow, the troops in a certain “quiet sector” began to exchange holiday greetings by means of crudely painted signs. A few minutes later, men who spoke German and men who spoke English were climbing from their trenches without guns and meeting on neutral ground to shake hands and exchange souvenirs, unmindful of war. No venom, no meanness, no poisonous hatred between these men at war. Friends they were, not enemies, this Christmas Day. For the moment, blessed forgetfulness erased from their memory the masters who drove them into bloody conflict….
“Rather on the Lord’s birthday they saw [one another] as fellowmen, men with homes they built, loved children who played about their knees, men who followed the same risen Lord and Master but who were tricked by the warlords and converted by leaders and propagandists that they should fight and kill. They understood each other now and liked each other.
“It is ignorance that makes wars and most other differences possible. People believe the opposition capable of atrocious things, because they do not realize that human nature is very much alike, wherever you find it.”
In the following sequence from the 1969 English film, Oh! What a Lovely War!, a scene from the Christmas truce of 1914 is depicted through the eyes of Scottish and German soldiers.