The Christmas Truce of 1914 and What It Means For Us

Christmas Truce 1914

One hundred years ago, today,1 a remarkable event happened in the Western Front of the World War I (第一次世界大戦, dai ichi ji sekai taisen in Japanese): on Christmas Day soldiers on both sides of the war stopped fighting, shared presents, sang Christmas carols together, played football, and became friends for a short time. This is known as the Christmas Truce of 1914 (クリスマス休戦, kurisumasu kyūsen).

You can read about it here in English, there is also a good article in Japanese about it too.

A British chain of grocery-stores, Sainsbury’s, has a nice video that dramatizes the event. Enable sub-titles in Youtube so you can see the German text:

Research shows that in World War I there were many small examples of ceasefires, agreements, and even conversations between opposing sides, but the Christmas Truce of 1914 was unique because it was much larger. Some parts of the Western Front still fought that day, but many areas didn’t.

But, why did they stop fighting around Christmas? One BBC article quotes a WWI soldier named Louis Barthas:

Shared suffering brings hearts together, dissolves hatred and prompts sympathy among indifferent people and even enemies. Those who deny this understand nothing of human psychology. French and German soldiers looked at one another and saw that they were all equal as men.

Deep down, are we all human. We have the same fears and desires, even though language, politics and customs separate us. Once we appreciate these fears, it’s hard to hate someone else. Deep down, we don’t want to attack each other or kill each other. We want peace more than war.

Christmas is not just a Christian holiday, it is about goodwill toward others.

This same spirit of goodwill is in the famous Metta Sutta of Buddhism:

May all be well and secure,
May all beings be happy!

Whatever living creatures there be,
Without exception, weak or strong,
Long, huge or middle-sized,
Or short, minute or bulky,

Whether visible or invisible,
And those living far or near,
The born and those seeking birth,
May all beings be happy!

So may all readers, and all beings be happy and well this Christmas Season.

1 Yesterday, for readers in Asia. 😉

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Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

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