One of the most touching songs of the evening was not on our songsheet. It was called “Christmas in the trenches,” and it is based on the story of the 1914 Christmas truce during World War I. Nan sang that song to us.
Here is a link to the song’s lyrics:
click here for lyrics of “Christmas in the Trenches” by John McCutcheon.
Here is some of the history behind the song:
The Christmas truce was a series of unofficial truces that occurred on Christmas of 1914. Soldiers that night stopped fighting. In some areas, both British and German soldiers sang songs together, exchanged photographs and cigarettes and chocolate, and played late-night soccer matches. In other areas, it was German and French soldiers who sang together, shared photographs and other small gifts, and played soccer.
The Christmas truce was a brief respite from a horrific war. I looked up the Christmas truce in Wikipedia and found this very heart-rending quotation:
Alfred Anderson (from Scotland): “I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence. Only the guards were on duty. We all went inside the farm buildings and just stood listening. And, of course, thinking of people back home. All I’d heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking, and whining of bullets in flight, machine gun fire, and distant German voices. But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted ‘Merry Christmas,’ even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early that afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war.”
According to Wikipedia, there was also a Christmas truce on the eastern front, between Russia and the Austro-Hungarian empire. Like the meetings of enemy soldiers on the western front, soldiers on the eastern front also met in no-man’s land. I don’t know what those soldiers did on no-man’s land or what they shared.