War is hell, as they say, but sometimes the humanity of its participants transcends the brutality.
It happened in 1914, in Belgium, when British and German troops honored an unspoken truce on Christmas eve, singing carols, decorating trees and even venturing into no-man’s land to shake hands and exchange gifts. Artillery fell silent. Letters from soldiers even tell of a soccer match between the two opposing forces (Germany won 3-2) (wikipedia). Writing about the “Christmas Truce”, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said the event was, “one human episode amid all the atrocities which have stained the memory of the war (BBC). ”
The spirit of the season isn’t confined to soldiers. While browsing the internet, I stumbled upon Christmas stories shared by Prisoners of War in WWII.
Recently, my wife and I enjoyed an annual Holiday Choral concert by Boise State students. During the evening, they sang several Christmas songs that were sung by women prisoners of war in Sumatra during WWII. The choir was created by Australian, Dutch and Briton women prisoners of war – most of whom were nuns or nurses – who survived over three years of brutality in a Japanese camp. Two of the women wrote the songs down by memory, and secretly taught other prisoners their parts. The choir survived throughout the war, although half of its members died before it ended. The survivors credit the choir’s music for keeping their spirits up amidst unspeakable attrocities. Their story was made into a film, Paradise Road. For the complete story, click here.
All around the world, families will be gathered together, some will attend church services, and others will take a few minutes to reflect on the never-ending quest for peace. On this day, on Christmas eve, may you find peace too. Merry Christmas.