Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas a Hundred Years Ago

December 25, 1914, the first Christmas of the Great War, was the day of the remarkable and unofficial Christmas Truce. An article that appeared last week in the Wall Street Journal quoted the recollections of a British soldier named Frank Richards, who wrote about what happened along some four hundred miles of trenches on the Western Front:
On Christmas morning we stuck up a board with "A Merry Christmas" on it. The enemy had stuck up a similar one. . . . Two of our men then threw their equipment off and jumped on the parapet with their hands above their heads. Two of the German done the same and commenced to walk up the river bank, our two men going to meet them. They met and shook hands and then we all got out of the trench. . . .
During the truce, soldiers exchanged gifts, held joint burial services for the dead, prayed together and sang Christmas carols ("Silent Night" was a carol both the British and the Germans knew), shared dinner, and even played soccer with improvised balls.

To commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of this extraordinary event on history, Sainsbury's, a major supermarket chain in the United Kingdom, created a reenactment of the Christmas Truce for its holiday commercial. The commercial drew a firestorm of criticism for being inappropriate, inaccurate, and exploiting emotions in order to boost sales, but it was endorsed by the Royal British Legion and defended by a military historian, who called it "a respectful short film that would have earned the approval of the soldiers it portrays."

The film is on YouTube. Click here to watch it for yourself.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely. After you watch the video, be sure to watch the two companion pieces, one about the making of the video and the other about the history behind it--both very well done and touching.