Military

How the Christmas Truce of 1914 Put a Global Conflict on Pause

December 25, 2020Coffee or Die
The Illustrated London News’s illustration of the Christmas Truce: “British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches” The subcaption reads “Saxons and Anglo-Saxons fraternising on the field of battle at the season of peace and goodwill: Officers and men from the German and British trenches meet and greet one another—A German officer photographing a group of foes and friends.” Wikimedia Commons image.

The Illustrated London News’s illustration of the Christmas Truce: “British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches” The subcaption reads “Saxons and Anglo-Saxons fraternising on the field of battle at the season of peace and goodwill: Officers and men from the German and British trenches meet and greet one another—A German officer photographing a group of foes and friends.” Wikimedia Commons image.

This article was originally published Dec. 17, 2020, on Sandboxx News. Follow Sandboxx News on Instagram


In late December of 1914, amid the fierce fighting of World War I, a series of unprecedented and unofficial truces occurred between opposing forces, in recognition of Christmas. There has never been anything quite like it since, and to this day, it is seen as an unconventional example of humanity in unexpected places.


Christmas that year came a short five months after the start of WWI, and the Western Front was already becoming firmly established as decisive in the conflict between Allied and German troops. Entrenchment began in September, and by November, both sides had continuous lines from the North Sea all the way to the Swiss border, covering over 400 miles.


Attempts at temporary civility began on December 7th, when Pope Benedict XV tried to appeal to European leaders, asking if “the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang.”


The formal request for a “Christmas truce” was flatly denied by all involved. This act lends itself to the still debated question of how these widespread truces came about, since they had been actively denounced. Some speculate that it was sheer disheartened exhaustion, coupled with the loss of the naivety soldiers had just months before. At its onset, many of the soldiers had believed the conflict would be resolved by the year’s end.



Despite continued fighting and opposition, Christmas Eve for some was met with the singing of carols instead of gunfire. By Christmas morning, German soldiers were approaching Allied lines, wishing soldiers a Merry Christmas and even attempting to do so in their respective languages. Allied soldiers were initially skeptical of this display of kind-heartedness, but upon realizing the soldiers were unarmed, many made the decision to interact and connect with those on the other side.


British soldier George Eade, was told by one of the German soldiers he encountered that day, “Today we have peace. Tomorrow, you fight for your country, I fight for mine. Good luck.”


They sang, exchanged food, cigarettes, and other goods, and according to some, even played a game of soccer together. There were ceasefires called so that both sides could retrieve the bodies of those who had been killed in battle and left between enemy trenches so that they could have a more proper burial. All in all, it’s said that nearly 100,000 soldiers were part of this truce.


19 year old private Henry Williamson, who was with the London Rifle Brigade, wrote to his mother, on December 26th, 1914:


“I am writing from the trenches … In my mouth is a pipe presented by the Princess Mary. In the pipe is tobacco. Of course, you say. But wait. In the pipe is German tobacco. Haha, you say, from a prisoner or found in a captured trench. Oh dear, no! From a German soldier. Yes a live German soldier from his own trench. Yesterday the British & Germans met & shook hands in the Ground between the trenches, exchanged souvenirs, & shook hands. Yes, all day, & as I write. Marvelous, isn’t it?”


There remains a lot of differing opinions about the when, where, and why this all happened, but to many, that only adds to the idea that this was, in part, a true Christmas miracle. Similar truces were attempted the following year, but were met with less willingness and more strict orders against them. In a war that killed an estimated 20 million, the 1914 truce still leads as an example of light, in even the darkest of times.



Coffee or Die
Coffee or Die

Coffee or Die is Black Rifle Coffee Company’s online lifestyle magazine. Launched in June 2018, the magazine covers a variety of topics that generally focus on the people, places, or things that are interesting, entertaining, or informative to America’s coffee drinkers — often going to dangerous or austere locations to report those stories.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
Coffee Or Die Photo
From the Team Room to Team Room Design: An Operator’s Creative Journey

BRCC partners with Team Room Design for an exclusive T-shirt release!

Coffee Or Die Photo
Get Your Viking On: The Exclusive 30 Sec Out BRCC Shirt Club Design

Thirty Seconds Out has partnered with BRCC for an exclusive shirt design invoking the God of Winter.

Grizzly Forge BRCC shirt
Limited Edition: Grizzly Forge Blades on an Awesome BRCC Shirt

Lucas O'Hara of Grizzly Forge has teamed up with BRCC for a badass, exclusive Shirt Club T-shirt design featuring his most popular knife and tiomahawk.

BRCC Limited Edition Josh Raulerson Blackbeard Skull Shirt
From Naval Service to Creative Canvas: BRCC Veteran Artist Josh Raulerson

Coffee or Die sits down with one of the graphic designers behind Black Rifle Coffee's signature look and vibe.

Medal of Honor is held up.
Biden Will Award Medal of Honor to Army Helicopter Pilot Who Rescued Soldiers in Vietnam Firefight

Biden will award the Medal of Honor to a Vietnam War Army helicopter pilot who risked his life to save a reconnaissance team from almost certain death.

dear jack mandaville
Dear Jack: Which Historic Battle Would You Want To Witness?

Ever wonder how much Jack Mandaville would f*ck sh*t up if he went back in time? The American Revolution didn't even see him coming.

west point time capsule
West Point Time Capsule Yields Centuries-Old Coins

A nearly 200-year-old West Point time capsule that at first appeared to yield little more than dust contains hidden treasure, the US Military Academy said.

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
Contact Us
© 2024 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved