World War I was a war unlike anything the world had ever seen. Along the front lines, both sides dug trenches, where the enemy was from 200 yards, to as close as 15 yards away. At best, conditions were miserable.
“In the lowlands, it was completely wet because they dug down and the bottoms of the trenches were completely flooded,” said Doran Cart, senior curator for the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Mo.
Most did not expect this to be a long war. In fact, it would really be a just a weeks-long skirmish in their minds, meaning it would be over by Christmas.
Thoughts of a quick war were fading fast as the holidays drew closer. On Dec. 25, 1914, an amazing sight began to take place along the front lines in the trenches.
“The Belgians were in the trenches and the support areas behind,” said Cart. “They began singing Christmas carols. The Germans, in kind, that were on the other side answered. They were still separated at this time, but they were singing Christmas carols back and forth.”
The singing of Christmas carols between the two sides was an event in itself. Another action signaled that Christmas Day would be different from the other days.
“A couple of soldiers from each side came out of trenches,” said Cart. “They were either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid, but it did bring up the soldiers from the other side.”
Several of the German soldiers had previously worked in England and spoke the language. Soon, men from both sides stood and conversed.
For most, it was a welcome break from the war. For others, such a meeting between combatants, even on Christmas, was something that should never occur.
The pace along the front line that day was sporadic and short-lived. Yet, it was a time for soldiers to perhaps remember home, their families and Christmas itself.