It was one of the few heartwarming events to occur in the bloody quagmire of the trenches of the Western Front. Word War I was originally supposed to be a war that would be over by Christmas. By Christmas it was clear that the fighting was not going to end any time soon.
On Christmas Eve along stretches of the Western Front the guns went silent to the dismay of the generals in headquarters. It started on Christmas Eve with Germans and British troops singing Christmas carols.
On Christmas day there was open fraternization across the trenches. Soldiers exchanged schnapps, cigarettes and chocolates with each other. They even played football (soccer).
The truces lasted through Christmas night though it continued until New Years day in some sectors. Similar truces occurred among the French and German lines and even on the Eastern Front between the Austrians and the Russians.
Over the next week news of the truces leaked to the press to generally positive coverage in Britain. Censorship in France suppressed the news and the reaction of the German press was muted.
The continuing bloodbath on the Western Front along with firmer directives from higher authorities reduced the recurrences of the truces in 1915. The introduction of chemical warfare in 1916 and the increasing dehumanization of the enemy resulted in the end of such truces until the war went on to its bloody end.
The far greater civilian casualties of Word War II have dulled the memories of the horrific body count of combatants in World War I. But the Christmas Truces endure in public memory as a shining moment of a time when soldiers took a break from the slaughter to celebrate their humanity, and received cinematic homage a few years ago.
Joyeaux Noel. Feliz Navidad. Merry Christmas.