One of the most remarkable Christmas-es happened not far from here. In the First Worldwar trenches near Ypres (Ieper) in West-Flanders, where warring troops had dug themselves in. With water often coming up to their waist, dug in mud and cold, the first Christmas of the War of the Trenches, was to be nothing but misery. Until a small miracle happened.
From a letter by Rifleman Graham Williams:
"I was standing on the firestep, gazing out towards the German line and thinking what a very different sort of Christmas Eve this was from any I had experienced in the past...
There had been no shooting from either side since the sniper's shot that morning, which had killed a very popular young soldier in our company named Bassingham. But this was not at all unusual.
Then suddenly, lights began to appear along the German parapet, which were evidently Christmas trees, adorned with lighted candles, which burnt steadily in the still frosty air! Other sentries had, of course, seen the same thing, and quickly awoke those on duty, asleep in the shelters, to "come and see this thing, which had come to pass". Then our opponents began to sing "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht".
This was actually the first time I heard this carol, which was not then so popular in this country as it has since become. They finished their carol and we thought that we ought to retaliate in some way, so we sang "The First Nowell".
And when we finished, they all began clapping; and then they struck up another favourite of theirs "O Tannenbaum". And so it went on. First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until we started up "O Come All Ye Faithful" the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words "Adeste Fidelis".
And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing - two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war."
Both British and German warring parties, shooting to kill a few hours before, but softened by memories of loved ones, later met in no-men's land. It was one of the rare truces in a vicious war, as can be read in this letter by Henry Williamson.
Inspiration from Tall Skinny Kiwi. Picture courtesy First World War