“The news had come out in the First World War, that the bloody Red Barron was flying once more. The Allied Command ignored all of his men, and called on Snoopy to do it again.” Snoopy’s Christmas by the Royal Guardsmen was recorded in 1967 and it tells the stylized story of the Christmas Truce of 1914. Every year it teaches me that no matter the conflicts between us, we can find peace on earth and good will toward men at least once a year. This year with tensions running high and Civil War 2.0 seemingly on the horizon as our nation is more divided than any point since the 1860’s, its an important lesson.
The Truce Story
According to History.com,
“Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops fighting in World War I sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.”
Christmas truce 1914 pic.twitter.com/6fA1hVlNYQ
— Saint Augustine (@SaintAugustin19) December 22, 2020
On Christmas day the story goes, German soldiers very cautiously crossed no-mans’ land and approached the allied lines and greeted the British lines calling out “Merry Christmas” in English. Naturally, the British officers suspected deception but the Kaiser’s troops were genuine and came unarmed. The British emerged into the grey daylight and shook hands with the enemy. They were quickly bridging cultural and linguistic barriers like soldiers have for centuries, with laughs, tobacco and alcohol. Some Germans decorated makeshift Christmas trees and sang “O’ Tannenbaum” and laughed as their British counterparts struggled with the words. The British shared plum pudding, played cards and soccer.
One of the most heartwarming moments in history was the #Christmas truce of 1914 during WWI. after days of non stop fighting, both sides came out of the trenches and called a truce on Christmas Eve. They laughed, sang songs, played soccer, and gifted each other presents pic.twitter.com/NxxoC26CAO
— 🇫🇷Parisian Girl🇫🇷(Aimée) (@ParisianGirlAmy) December 21, 2020
History.com quoted German Imperial Feuerwerksoberleutnant (Lieutenant) Kurt Zehmisch,
“How marvelously wonderful, yet how strange it was. The English officers felt the same way about it. Thus Christmas, the celebration of Love, managed to bring mortal enemies together as friends for a time.”
At this point the war was only five months old, and many of the German and British troops remembered a time when they were trade partners and even family and friends as even the British royal family had significant German ties at that time.
It’s easy to think of Germany and Britain as totally different nations but it’s really a rather recent separation, Queen Victoria was called the “Grandmother of Europe” for a good reason. Almost all of the major nations had rulers who were second cousins or closer. The Royal House of Windsor changed its name by order of King George V to differentiate itself from Germany during the war, until then it was the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, so named for their family holdings of Saxony, Coburg and Gotha, their ancestral German lands.
A War of Brothers and Countrymen
Taking into account, how small Europe is compared to the United States and the deep political and family connections between Britain and Germany up until 1914, World War I really was more similar to a Civil War between countrymen and family than for example the war between Japan and the US thirty years later. There was a shared faith as both countries were majority protestant, shared cultural ties, shared rulers and even past alliances.
After the Anglo-Prussian alliances that defeated Napoleon twice, British-German relations varied from actual alliances to being co-equal states under the same family. The two were always cordial and friendly up until January 1896 and the Kruger Telegram regarding the Boer War which soured the relationship and set the two nations on course for war. It’s crazy isn’t it? Only 18 years before WWI began in 1914 the British largely considered the Germans their respected, beloved cousins and allies.
So It Was For Us, Once
How long has it been since the left and right in America really, REALLY considered each other brothers, sisters and countrymen?
For a very short while in 2001 beginning on 9/12 but it really hasn’t lasted. Right? Before that the 90’s were somewhat “chill” in the memories of most other than the Clinton impeachment. And as I listened to a hit track of Reagan joking with the Press in the 80’s I couldn’t imagine them being so cordial with President Trump or even Bush. So let’s peg it to the months following September 11th 2001, that’s the last brief time we really considered our fellow Americans as warmly as the Brits once viewed their Teutonic cousins. It’s been about 18 years… and we’re right on schedule.
Our Own Truce
So as the song teaches us, let’s listen to the Christmas bells, those Christmas bells, ringing through the land. Asking peace of all the world and good will toward men.
While we still can, let’s step out of the trenches and embrace our fellow Americans if just for a day or two and remember that not so long ago, we were brothers and still can be again. Merry Christmas my friends.