CHRISTMAS 1914

 

Dear Virtual Editor,

Screen Shot 2014-12-24 at 1.28.18 PMThe video clip below is my Christmas gift to the friends I know and the subscribers I do not know.  As you can see from the Welcome message, I began DVE for my own benefit to help me avoid bugging newspapers.  Being very tech challenged, I had no idea anyone would want to read it. It has been a surprise and a great honour to find that hundreds of perfect strangers have subscribed. Don’t get me wrong, we are not talking Taylor Swift twitter feed numbers here.  But the readership is steadily growing. Thank you.

Subscribers present both an honour and a challenge.  I have a book about Canada and other people’s wars that must go to the publisher in a few weeks. (Don’t worry, you will all get a chance to buy it!)  But all those DVE people I don’t know make me worry if I don’t post regularly.  The clip is a way to combine both projects.

In Canada, World War I is generally known as the Great War.  It is a much bigger deal here. This petty imperial squabble that got horribly out of hand cost Canada much more than it did the U.S.  It was a stupid, horrible war that is responsible for many wars, most notably World War II. But among ordinary soldiers, there were glimmers of hope. Many people know of the Christmas truce of the first year of the war.  British and German soldiers defied their generals and stopped fighting, came out of their trenches, exchanged gifts, and played football. (The Germans won, 3-2. Plus ca change….) Most of the small unit officers looked the other way.

What is less well known is that there were Christmas truces up and down the line in addition to that famous one of 1914.  Moreover, the opposing troops developed “live and let live” practices like firing over one another’s heads if two patrols met, and not shelling at all during the service of meals. Cynics downplay the Christmas truce, pointing out correctly that it did not stop the war. The troops went back to killing one another.  But the cynics understand neither the wisdom of the ordinary soldier nor the real value of symbols of hope.

The video is a testament to that hope. It is actually an ad for biscuits, but note that it is co-sponsored by the Royal British Legion.  That is like the American Legion buying a commercial for peace! That is a remarkable tribute to those nameless, muddy, lice-ridden Germans and Brits who celebrated one another’s basic humanity 100 years ago Thursday.  The 2014 Christmas season has been a particularly violent one, perhaps making it even more worthwhile to pause and consider symbols of hope.  Merry Christmas. Frohe Weinachten.

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