The Christmas Truce

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World War I

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One of the oddest yet most compelling episodes in World War I happened on Christmas Day in 1914.

The war had been going on for a few months, and neither side had made much progress (as was the case for most of the war, actually). Germans on one side were hunkered in their trenches; not far away were English and British hunkered down in their trenches. War doesn't usually recognize holidays such as Christmas.

But early on Christmas morning, a group of German soldiers left their guns in their trenches and walked across the no-man's land in between the trenches and said, "Merry Christmas" in both English and French. The startled French and British soldiers thought it a trick and kept their weapons aimed at the unarmed Germans. Finally convinced of the Germans' sincerity, the British and French climbed out of their own trenches and greeted their enemies of the day before. The men exchanged cigarettes and food and even played a game of soccer. They sang songs and shared drinks. They made merry on Christmas Day.

The war continued the next day, of course, and the better part of four years after that. Millions died at the hands of terrifying new weapons. Many lessons were learned (and not learned). The following Christmas, no such truce presented itself. That pattern continued throughout the war.

But on that one day in 1914, the holiday spirit overcame political prejudices and brought men in uniform together in the spirit of the holiday.

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Social Studies for Kids
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David White