Trenches in World War I were muddy, messy, dangerous places; the sort that could cave in, the kind where diseases lurked and bullets whizzed by you from an enemy sometimes as close as 30 yards away. Just beyond your cozy bunker, bombs were being lobbed into no man's land, or into your trench if it was dug in a bad spot.
But on Christmas night, 1914, along a good portion of the front, the Germans did something a bit unexpected: They invited the English to join them in no man's land to sing Christmas carols. Pretty soon both sides were not only singing, but were engaged in fierce matches of soccer. They shared cigarettes, and showed one another photos of loved ones back home. It was a moment of sanity and humanity in the midst of horror and, well, insanity. And it was brought about not by the commanders, but by the guys doing the dirty work, the common soldiers. Some of the commanders did approve of the festivities, while others were afraid it was allowing the enemy to restructure their defenses. Maybe other commanders were afraid that peace might break out.
But it was the right response--gentlemen may be compelled to fight, and they hopefully fight honorably, but a gentleman knows that Christmas is not the time to be fighting. It's, well, Christmas. Via Charles Dickens, Scrooge's nephew put it very well indeed:
"There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say, Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round--apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that--as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!"
With that in mind, please take a listen to one of the best, least played and most under-rated Christmas carols of all time, "Snoopy's Christmas." It's located at the top right of this page.
A Merry Christmas to you all, and a Happy New Year!