By 1914, modern machinery enabled men to conduct non-stop, highly lethal warfare. The human side of war, which had never been very large or very human, was diminishing. Killing seemed to go on day and night in the trenches on a scale no army had seen before.
Then, on Christmas Eve, German and Allied soldiers on the Western Front made one of the last gestures of chivalry in a major war. Without permission from their officers — which they never could have obtained anyway — they laid down their guns for a day. Men came out of their trenches, shook hands, exchanged their rationed goods, gave each other haircuts, played soccer, and generally conducted themselves as if they were back in their villages on Christmas Day.
The military commands on both sides were horrified by this insubordination. They feared it would render their soldiers incapable of shooting the men with whom they’d celebrated the peaceful holiday.
But the truce didn’t outlast the holiday. They shooting began shortly afterward.
When Christmas returned in 1915, 1916, and 1917, soldiers on either side showed no interest in a truce; they didn’t want to prolong the war a single day more by a ceasefire.
To honor the 100th anniversary of this extraordinary moment of peace in wartime, Audible Studios has produced Christmas Eve 1914, a full-cast dramatization following one company of British officers as they rotate forward to spend their Christmas on the front lines, written by Emmy Award winner Charles Olivier:
The entire program Christmas Eve 1914 is free for a limited time at audible.com/1914.
Sainsbury’s, An English grocery store, has also created the following commercial dramatizing events of the Christmas truce that has received more than 15 million views so far.
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