The Christmas Truce 1914 - Lenin's View*
by Nick Glais
The truce began on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1914, when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium, for Christmas. They began by placing candles on trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols, most notably Stille Nacht (Silent Night). The British troops in the trenches across from them responded by singing English carols. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were calls for visits across the "No Man's Land" where small gifts were exchanged — whisky, jam, cigars, chocolate, and the like. The artillery in the region fell silent that night. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently-fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties.
Proper burials took place as soldiers from both sides mourned the dead together and paid their respects. At one funeral in No Man's Land, soldiers from both sides gathered and read a passage from the 23rd Psalm: The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the path of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.
The truce spread to other areas of the lines, and there are many stories of football matches between the opposing forces. The film Joyeux Noël suggests that letters sent home from both British and German soldiers related that the score was 3-2 in favour of the Germans.
Lenin, the leader of the working class revolution in Russia, heard about the Christmas truce. He pointed out that if there were organizations prepared to fight for such a policy among the soldiers of all the belligerent nations, there might have been a quick end to the world war in favor of the working masses. Lenin wrote, “Try to imagine Hyndman, Guesde, Vandervelde, Plekhanov, Kautsky and the rest [leaders of so-called socialist parties that supported the world war] – instead of aiding the bourgeoisie (something they are now engaged in – forming an international committee to agitate for fraternization and attempts to establish friendly relations between the socialists of the belligerent countries, both in the trenches and among the troops in general. What would the results be several months from now?”