It was December 24th, 1914. Christmas Eve.
Across hundreds of miles in Ypres in Belgium, the Germans troops lay in their trenches and within shouting distance, was the enemy – the Allied soldiers made up of the French, Belgian, British and the Canadian.
Already, the toll of this trench war had mounted to about a million men, frozen bodies strewn between the trenches.
Suddenly, the strangest thing began to happen. The German soldiers began to place lighted candles on the Christmas trees that they had in their trenches and singing Christmas carols. Seeing this, the Allied soldiers began to sing too and shout Christmas greetings across the trenches to the Germans.
What followed was perhaps one of the strangest and the most beautiful events in the history of war ….and peace. The shooting stopped and unarmed soldiers came out of the trenches on both sides to shake hands, salutes and even gifts….
It continued into Christmas day and the peace was so “scary” that the commanding officers on both sides threatened the “peace-mongers” with court martial …..but no one seemed to care!
And the carol that probably set off the whole event?
“Silent Night, Holy Night”.
I found this story while surfing YouTube for recordings of this composition…..which is when I stumbled on a recording of Walter Cronkite narrating the story as he hosts the Mormon’s Tabernacle Choir’s Christmas concert. As Cronkite points out, it’s extraordinary how almost 100 years later, this still holds so much meaning – that we humans never learn, not even from the lessons history puts in front of us and that peace is always possible, even in the most impossible circumstances.
I also found on a rendering of this incredible composition by none other than the greta Mahila Jackson. The two versions are radically different but no matter how many times I hear this music, no matter who sings it or performs it, it always makes my hair stand on end and at the same time fills my heart with a peace so beautiful it make me want to weep.
I am giving below the links to both the recordings – please, please do listen.
So, I know I am a day late but methinks its never to late to be wishing that this peace will fill all your hearts, my dear friends, and also the hearts of the people that are right now filled with so much hate and fear!