Summary: Peace on earth was what the angels said. Have you ever thought about how misunderstood those words are? What is the peace that the angels referred to? Who are the intended recipients of that peace? How can you have that peace?
Peace on Earth
Introduction: They hated and they killed each other. Soldiers from invading Germany and defending French and British troops had dug themselves in 1914 along a front line with hundreds of miles of trenches, bunkers and barbed-wire which started at the North Sea at the Belgium port of Oostende, reached Nancy in France and ended in Switzerland at the Alps… But on the Christmas Eve of December 24th, 1914, something happened which has never ever happened before: the German soldiers started – out of the blue – a grassroots movement for peace and a spontaneous cease-fire. On the frontline, they wanted to end fighting for the Christmas days and celebrate Peace on Earth… German infantrymen in Belgium started to sing their favorite Christmas songs “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” (Silent Night, Holy Night) and “Oh Tannenbaum” (“Oh Christmas Tree”). On the other side, only 100 meters away, the British and French soldiers started to applaud and shouted: “Good, old Fritz”, “Encore, Encore” and “More, More.” The Germans answered, “Merry Christmas, Englishmen” and “We not shoot, you not shoot!” They put candles on their rifles and held them in the air to show them to the other side. Some built up Christmas trees with candles like in the living rooms at home…At the Yser canal, German soldiers stood up and just walked to the British troops shouting “Comrades, don’t shoot!” The Brits raised and walked to the Germans, they shook hands and smiled at each other. The 16th and 17th Regiments from Bavaria had organized a cease-fire near the destroyed city of Messines to bury their dead. The 20th Bavarian Regiment fraternized with the French of the 99th Infantry Regiment. The Saxonian Regiments (near Ploegsteet-Wald, Wulverge, Frelinghien) also made peace with their enemies. The 14th Warshire Regiment, stationed behind St. Yvon, documented the Christmas surprise in its “War Diary.” A German soldier shouted: “Come over here, Warwicks!” Then he marched to the English trench. A Warshire rifleman came out to meet him half way, both without weapons. Were they brave or mentally ill? Suddenly, many more men came out of the trenches to join them. The German soldiers gave the English some of their Christmas presents like hard wurst; the British handed out their Princess-Mary Boxes, Bully Beef and chocolate. This lasted from 8pm in the evening until noon the next day - a Christmas peace on the battlefield. The Commander of the 6th company of the 179th Royal Saxonian Regiment saw the Englishmen coming out of their trenches, waving and shouting “Merry Christmas!” He commanded: “No shooting!” and marched to the British officer. They wished themselves a Happy Christmas. Then they agreed on a local cease-fire for Christmas. Some soldiers even organized barbeques and soccer games together. After Christmas was over, the fights started again and led to the decline of Europe and the deaths of more and more young people. - Hubertus Hoffmann, A Soldier's Christmas Surprise in World War I, 1914, posted in Peace and Conflict, 23, December 2003