Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Night the Angels Sang

In July of 1914,The Great War began in Europe.  On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV pleaded with the various powers to hold a Christmas truce, asking "that the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang."  The hope was that during this truce, negotiations could happen that would end the conflict and bring peace to Europe.  But the Pope's plea was dismissed by those in charge for fear the troops might mutiny and refuse to fight.  Despite this, something miraculous happened.

Front Page, The Daily Mirror January 1915

On Christmas Eve, a night that was moonlit and frosty according to accounts, singing started coming from the German trenches: "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht, Alles schläft, einsam wacht..." The tune was familiar and the Americans joined in singing "Silent Night, Holy Night".  Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade documented the experience:

"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, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing ­– two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war."


Thus began the unofficial Christmas Truce.

Areas along the Western and Eastern Fronts experienced this Christmas miracle where troops on either side of the conflict laid down their weapons and embraced each other simply as fellow human beings.  They sang carols throughout the night.  They met in the area between the trenches known as "No Man's Land" and shared drink, food and smokes and carried out the solemn task of burying the dead.  There were even thrown together pick up games of soccer played.  In some areas the truce only lasted through Christmas Day and in others it extended into the New Year.  The Great War raged on for 4 more years with small moments of peace happening between the trenches, but nothing ever again to the scale of the Christmas Truce of 1914.

So what made me bring all this up?  So far, we think we have dated our house to 1914.  And I, being the sentimental person that I am, I began to think of all the things our house has seen.  And yes, I am personifying a house, but I believe houses have souls.  With all that living going on inside you for so many years, how can you not? But I digress.  Our house was built or was being built when WWI broke out in Europe.  It was there when this truce happened.  It was a witness to a miracle where men allowed their innermost desire for peace shine through during a time of great conflict.

So I ask you, please, to share this story this year.  Drown out the media and the politicians.  Teach your kids that peace is possible, that getting along even if you don't see eye to eye can happen- has happened.  That it really can be as simple as "Love Thy Neighbor"

Belleau Wood by Garth Brooks
Christmas 1915 by Celtic Thunder