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December 24, 2018

The power of Christmas

The power of Christmas was dramatically demonstrated on Christmas Eve in 1914, when soldiers on both sides of the Western Front sung carols to each other. On Christmas Day troops along 2/3 of the Front declared a truce. In some places the truce lasted a week. A year later, sentries on both sides were ordered to shoot anyone who attempted a repeat performance.

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Today's Random Fact:

NEW BestSellersIt is hard to pin down exactly what happened. A huge range of differing oral accounts, diary entries and letters home from those who took part make it virtually impossible to speak of a 'typical' Christmas truce as it took place across the Western front. To this day historians continue to disagree over the specifics.

Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade described it like this:

"First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up 'O Come, All Ye Faithful' the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, this is really a most extraordinary thing -- two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war."

The next morning, in some places, German soldiers emerged from their trenches, calling out 'Merry Christmas' in English. Allied soldiers came out warily to greet them. In others, Germans held up signs reading 'You no shoot, we no shoot.' Over the course of the day, troops exchanged gifts of cigarettes, food, buttons and hats. The Christmas truce also allowed both sides to finally bury their dead comrades, whose bodies had lain for weeks on 'no man's land,' the ground between opposing trenches.

 
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As the Great War resumed, it wreaked such destruction and devastation that soldiers became hardened to the brutality of the war. While there were occasional moments of peace throughout the rest of World War I, they never again came on the scale of the Christmas truce in 1914.