Over 100 years ago, a cold December night in 1914 started off like many other nights. At that time, World War I, which would eventually claim over 16 million lives, was still in its early stages. With the use of machine guns, poisonous gases, tanks, airplanes, and many other new inventions of modern warfare, the “war to end all wars” was quickly becoming one of the most gruesome and deadliest.Yet on Christmas Eve, of that year an amazing thing happened, and the sound of gunfire, explosions, and screams were replaced with Christmas carols coming from the trenches.
Soon makeshift Christmas trees and candles could be seen rising from the trenches. One account that has been cited numerous times was that of Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade. Describing the event, Williams stated, “First the Germans would sing one of their carols, and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful,’ the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words ‘Adeste Fideles.’ And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing ¬– two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”
This event has come to be known as the Christmas Truce of 1914 and, in addition to the caroling, it consisted of soldiers exchanging food, souvenirs, and even playing friendly games of soccer. Time magazine referred to this Christmas Truce as “a testament to the power of hope and humanity in a truly dark hour of history,” and some reports estimate that 100,000 soldiers participated.
As we approach Christmas over a century after this event, we can still benefit from its lesson. It seems lately that at every level (local, state, and federal), politics has gotten more divided. It is hard to get on social media and not see personal attacks and name-calling occur as a result of anything prominent politicians say or do. Instead of looking for common ground or remembering our state’s motto, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall,” it sometimes seems that all attention has been on tearing down the other side. These efforts are often not because of policy reasons, but because of party affiliation. Last week, veteran Frankfort reporter Ronnie Ellis described a cloud hanging over our state capitol and, just a few months ago, one of our U.S. Senators was brutally attacked while working in his yard.
This holiday season, I hope that all Kentuckians can put aside our disagreements in order to celebrate and enjoy Christmas. Even though it can sometimes feel like we are on opposite sides, there are some events that can put life into perspective and make our disagreements seem small. As the soldiers who have participated in the Christmas Truce came to realize, the joy and spirit of Christmas can transcend even our biggest differences if we are willing to let it.
By Sen. Wil Schroder