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Christmas truce

The so-called "Christmas truce" began on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1914, during World War I, when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium for Christmas. They began by placing candles on trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols. The British troops in the trenches across from them responded by singing English carols.

The two sides continued by shouting holiday greetings to each other. Soon, there were calls for visits across the "No Man's Land", where small gifts were exchanged -- whiskey, cigars, and the like. The artillery in the region fell silent that night. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties.

The truce spread to other areas of the lines, and there is a perhaps apocryphal story of a football match between the opposing forces, which ended when the ball struck a strand of barbed wire and deflated.

In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night, but in some areas, it continued until New Year's Day.

British commanders Sir John French and Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien vowed that no such truce would be allowed again. In all of the following years of the war, artillery bombardments were ordered on Christmas Eve to insure that there were no further lulls in the combat. Troops were also rotated through various sectors of the front to prevent the troops from becoming overly familiar with the enemy troops.

In 1999, the so-called "Khaki Chums", officially The Association for Military Remembrance, visited a region of Flanders and recreated the Christmas truce. They lived as the World War I British soldiers had lived, with no modern conveniences.

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