Christmas: A Time of Peace, Even for Enemies

11/11/11 ASHLAND, OH -- The Ashland Center for Nonviolence at Ashland University will show a video about the Christmas Truce of World War I on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m. on the Ashland University campus.

Following the video, there will be a discussion on one of the most amazing moments in World War I. This event, which will be held in the Ridenour Room of the Dauch College of Business and Economics, is free and open to the public.

John Stratton, executive director of the Ashland Center for Nonviolence, says that he assumed the Christmas Truce was a bit of urban folklore when he first heard of it. “It is wonderful to know that it actually happened,” he says. “This is the WWI equivalent to the saying, ‘What if they gave a war and nobody came?’ This was almost the time when nobody came.

“It is easy to look back and see how senseless the war was in so many ways, how many lives were lost, how much of so many countries were ruined, but it was not so easy to see that in 1914, in the middle of the war frenzy,” Stratton continued. “It is amazing that soldiers were able to see their common humanity and create an unofficial truce in the middle of The Great War.”

Although there was no official truce, approximately 100,000 British and German troops participated in an unofficial ceasefire along the length of the Western Front. The first truce began on Christmas Eve, December 1914, after German troops started decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium.

The Germans placed candles on their trenches and on Christmas trees and then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols. The British responded by singing carols of their own. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were excursions across the “No Man's Land,” where small gifts were exchanged, such as food, tobacco, alcohol and souvenirs such as buttons and hats

The artillery in the region fell silent that night. The truce created a breathing spell where recently-fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Joint services were held. The fraternization was not, however, without its risks; some soldiers were shot by opposing forces. In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night, but it continued until New Year's Day in others.

What actually happened and why? Was this an unpatriotic treasonous act or an act of hope and courage or something in between? Why did soldiers who had been shooting at each other the day before put down their guns? Why did they take them up again?

The Ashland Center for Nonviolence, located on the campus of Ashland University, is committed to exploring and promoting alternatives to violence in ourselves, our families, our communities and our world. For more information about this event, or to learn more about the Ashland Center for Nonviolence, please call 419-289-5313 or visit us online at www.ashland.edu/acn.