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The 1914 Christmas Truce: When Men Feast Together

1914 Christmas Truce

The 1914 Christmas Truce was a moment when enemies laid down their weapons in WWI and joined together to celebrate, eat, and play.

As we approach this festive time of year, I’ve become quite passionate about food and eating with friends. Something quite powerful and healing takes place when mates sit around a table and talk over a pint of beer or eat an abundance of good food.

Years ago, in the Navy, we served and cooked for many people within higher positions in the military, government, and even royalty. I enjoyed making the night memorable because we never knew what people were going through. The menu planning, preparation, presentation, polishing silver, glassware, ironing linen, polishing table tops, folding napkins, decanting wine, pouring beers, and aligning table settings so that everything was uniform carried meaning. We knew each function was a success if the conversation flowed and glasses were emptied, and more importantly, the plates were emptied. Having a meal and creating that unique environment was restorative because it could be that moment where people put aside issues and toasted to goodwill.

The 1914 Christmas Truce or WWI Christmas Eve truce took place when the British and Allied forces laid down their weapons on that cold frosty morning. They chose to remove themselves from their place of conflict and engaged in Christmas revelry with their German counterparts from across the trenches. An estimated 100,000 men participated in this legendary moment of peace. While the Western front a few moments beforehand resounded with the sounds of fighting and hatred, now the echo of rowdy banter and partying broke out among the men. Hymns such as O Come all Ye Faithful and Silent Night were sung with passion among both parties. Gifts of hot cooked food, cigarettes, buttons, items of clothing, and liquor among the commissioned officer ranks were exchanged as a token of goodwill. What was once a place of desolation became a place of tolerance and understanding.

What was it that contributed to that momentary treaty of friendship among enemies? I truly believe it was when the two opposing camps of men came and shared together. It was in the partaking of food and kindness that these men got through such a trying time. While the Christmas truce came and went, that experience over food was one that showed men’s hearts could open up to something much more powerful… Forgiveness!

If you are in a broken relationship, what are some ways that you can begin the process of restoration? I truly believe it can begin through showing genuine hospitality through a shared meal, quality conversation, and a common experience.

A Shared Meal

Sharing a meal does not have to be an expensive thing. It can even be over a drink. Australian writer Henry Lawson said, “The greatest pleasure I have ever known is when my eyes meet the eyes of a mate over the top of two foaming glasses of beer.” Sharing together is when you let your guard down and remember what is important. It can cross over to any group or culture.

Christians take to sharing in communion on a weekly basis to remember what God has done for us and how He has forgiven us. Military men and women raise a glass each time a soldier falls in battle. Marriage is usually celebrated over a feast. When people celebrate the life of family and friends that pass away, the wake is littered with food and wine as people laugh over the good times. When you meet up with long lost friends it usually entails a nice meal or a coffee. Sharing together is what makes us human.

Quality Conversation

When you put aside ego, attitude, and views, a space becomes available to open up and lay it all  bare. Recently, I had a few months where things beyond my control began to pile up. Instead of holding it in, I let it all out in one vulnerable moment. Did I care that a friend or those around me would walk away? Not really, because good mates accept your flaws and stick by you through thick and thin. Today more than ever I really respect them in my life; they are like brothers. I am reminded daily that the greatest act of chivalry among men takes place when conversation and communication continue. Sometimes it is the news that we discuss, faith, or sport. If I care to admit it, most of the times it is the foolish things and dry humor that captures our talks.

Common Experiences

Lastly, a shared common experience is a vital thing that can restore broken friendships. A shared experience comes by watching sport together, heading out for a run, going on a trek, camping, group activities, or attending concerts. Sharing in an experience together enables people from all walks of life to make it through the tough times. This was something that is very evident if you read war dairies of those men that went through that bleak winter of 1914. If it were not for a shared experience of the WWI truce, then many would have never made it home to their loved ones.

As you approach Christmas this year, what ways can you restore broken relationships in your life? Look around you, and reach out to them. You never know what impact this may have in years to come.

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