Friday, December 22, 2023

The Christmas Night that Went Silent

 By Sherri Stewart

It happened on parts of the Western front on Christmas Eve in 1914 that the soldiers from Great Britain, Belgium, and France climbed out of their trenches and spent the day celebrating with their German enemies. Just a few months into a war that would eventually claim over 15 million lives, the enemies put down their rifles for a few hours and remembered the Prince of Peace.

No one knows where it all began or who was responsible. Pope Benedict XV had called for a Christmas ceasefire. German Emperor William II may have contributed to the holiday atmosphere when he sent Christmas trees to the front in an effort to bolster morale. Nevertheless, more than half of the troops along the Western Front are believed to have participated in the temporary truce. Some suggest the truce began with the singing of a Christmas carol. It was a beautiful night—a dust of snow covering the area. Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade said, “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.”

The next morning, German soldiers came out of their trenches, calling out “Merry Christmas” in English. Some even held up signs reading “You no shoot, we no shoot.” At first the Allied troops were dubious. Was this just a ruse to get them out? But finally, the troops’ need to celebrate Christmas overtook their reticence, and they spent the day exchanging gifts of cigarettes, food, buttons, and hats with German troops. The detente also allowed both sides to bury their dead with honor. Others celebrated by playing soccer or even getting their hair cut.



Yet not everybody was in favor of the Christmas truce of 1914. To some, cavorting with the enemy was in direct opposition to the troops’ superiors and to the countries they served. When Adolph Hitler, Corporal of the 16th Bavarians, heard about the Christmas truce, he replied, “Have you no German sense of honor?” The problem was one of proximity—that No Man’s Land spread just one-hundred feet in some places, which meant Allied soldiers could hear their enemies conversing and joking and could even smell their cooking. It must have been difficult to maintain aggression when one’s enemy had a voice and a face.

In the days following Christmas, fighting returned to the Western Front, although the truce lasted until after New Year’s Day in some areas. While the truce could not have succeeded without the endorsement of junior officers on both sides, British and German generals quickly took steps to prevent any further episodes of socializing with the enemy. Still, there weren’t any punishments linked to the events of the Christmas truce. Senior commanders likely recognized the disastrous effect that such a move would have on morale in the trenches. Attempts to revive the truce on Christmas Day 1915 were quashed, and there were no subsequent widespread cease-fires on the Western Front until the armistice of November 1918.

Over a century later, the Christmas truce has been remembered as a testament to the power of a Savior born into a world to bring peace where there is darkness. Children can read about the truce in Michael Foreman’s War Game, and the films, Joyeux Noel, and Oh, What a Lovely War! celebrate the event. In 2014, Prince William unveiled a memorial: The frame of a soccer ball with two hands clasped inside it. A few days later, the truce was commemorated with a soccer game between German and British Army teams.

Selah Award finalist Sherri Stewart loves a clean novel, sprinkled with romance and a strong message that challenges her faith. She spends her working hours with books—either editing others’ manuscripts or writing her own. Her passions are traveling to the settings of her books and sampling the food. She traveled to Paris for this book, and she works daily on her French and German although she doesn’t need to since everyone speaks English. A widow, Sherri lives in Orlando with her lazy dog, Lily. She shares recipes, tidbits of the book’s locations, and other authors' books in her newsletter.
Subscribe at

What Hides behind the Walls

If the Nazis stole your house, wouldn’t you be justified in stealing it back now that the war is over?

When Tamar Feldman admits to her husband, Daniel, and mentor, Neelie Visser, that she broke into her former home, they scold her for taking such a risk. Tamar is tired of being careful. She’s tired of living in the present, as if the past doesn’t matter. But the painting of the violin girl in her former bedroom draws her back again and again. She finally steals the painting to return it to its former owner. Now maybe this small act of justice will help her start to heal. What Tamar doesn’t realize is the past isn’t finished with her yet; in fact, it’s as close as the walls in her house and even follows her to Paris.


  1. Thank you for reminding us that truces can be arrived at. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  2. Thanks for sharing this story! I vaguely remember hearing something about it before, but never much detail.