Almost forgotten now - seldom ever recalled – is the Christmas Day of 1914. The First World War was in its first years, and as Christmas drew near, the thoughts of men of both armies, facing each other across the dead strewn “No Man’s Land,” turned towards home. Home where the Christmas trees were gaily decorated amid the warmth and love of the annual celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace.
Religious leaders across the world appealed to both the German and Allied Armies for a Christmas cease-fire. The Kaiser and the Allied generals alike turned a deaf ear. There would be no cessation of hostilities – no ceasefire for any cause. Word was passed down the lines that any and all requests for Christmas leave would be denied.
But then one of the strangest happenings this world has ever known occurred. At the stroke of midnight, guns ceased to belch forth their message of death. Quietly, rifles were laid aside - a strange silence descended over No Man’s Land. Silently, men reached out to those nearest them to squeeze a hand and by saying “Merry Christmas” to a buddy somehow it was saying it to their loved ones back at home and far away.
As these whispered greetings were passed along down the trenches, an eerie, unnatural silence gripped the land. Heads were bowed in silent prayer, then suddenly into this silence between the two lines of trenches there came a voice loud and clear “Froelich Weinachten!” which means Merry Christmas in German. Slowly, heads came up to see what was happening. Swiftly now there were greetings of the season flung back and forth all down the lines. Cautiously, one after another, the men of both sides crawled out of their trenches and into the middle of No Man’s Land they met. Enemies sworn to kill each other, German and Allied soldiers rushed to meet each other to exchange Christmas greetings, and to declare for themselves what the appeals of all the religious leaders of the world had not been able to declare.
Afterward, Generals fumed, inquires were made, reprimands were handed out, and by the next Christmas 1915 the practice of killing had become so much a habit that this did not happen again. But this tribute to the power of a baby who was born in a manger will live forever.