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Wartime Christmas

Updated on November 5, 2014

Here we go a caroling

We all know what a wonderful season the Christmas holidays can be. Family is together, gifts are exchanged, carols are sung. Interestingly enough, some of these carols are based in less happy times, wartime. Find out about how these carols connect with war and learn a little history too!

World War I

What the soldiers knew as the Great War and we now call World War I took place between 1914-1918. It was fought in Europe and involved the world's major powers including England, France and Russia (Allies) vs Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy (Central Powers) plus their colonies and allies. It was one of the largest wars in history with over 70 million soldiers participating. It began because of a series of events that spurred each country to defend themselves in a battle.

Note: although Italy sided with the Central Powers before war broke out, when it finally entered the war in 1915 it was on the Allied side.

Trench warefare
Trench warefare

Trench Warfare

By December of 1914 much of the fighting between the Allies and the Central Powers had reached a stalemate. The battleground became two parallel trenches ranging from fifty to 1000 yards apart and stretched a total of 475 miles. Soldiers were held up in these trenches, narrow, dirty, six foot deep holes. The trenches were terrifying. Machine gun fire erupted when ever a soldier would raise his head. The enclosed soldiers were sitting ducks to heavy shell artillery which would be fired into the trenches. Also, the trenches were no match for the bulldozing tanks and the poisonous gas attacks. Heavy rain also made the trenches dangerous. There was the ever present sound of artillery, the constant plague of mud, slime, rats, fleas and disease and the ever present danger of snipers and fear of attack. The area between the opposing trenches was called No Man's Land.

Christmas in the Trenches

The closeness of the trenches would often inspire conversation and trades between the enemies. And although the entrenched soldiers felt no need for the business of the war to go on, the higher ranking officers made them fight on. As Christmas of 1914 approached packages began to arrive for the solders from home. The soldiers, distracted by Christmas had a chance to stop the fighting. Both sides began to sing Christmas carols during the quiet of the night. The rain and mud was replaced with snow making the hardened ground much easier to walk on. A commotion in the German trenches revealed lighted trees appearing along the battle lines. Each side held their own Christmas ceremonies and in some places opposing soldiers would meet in No Mans Land, shake hands and share gifts.Although the peace was a fragile one at first, hundreds of truces were arranged on Christmas morning Troops defied the senior officers who tried to put a stop to the cease-fire. This unofficial truce began on Christmas Eve and lasted until Christmas night (although in some areas it lasted until New Year's Day) and in Ploegsteert Wood, Belgium it held until March!

Silent night, holy night

All is calm, all is bright

Round yon Virgin Mother and Child

Holy Infant so tender and mild

Sleep in heavenly peace

Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!

Shepherds quake at the sight

Glories stream from heaven afar

Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!

Christ, the Saviour is born

Christ, the Saviour is born

Silent night, holy night

Son of God, love's pure light

Radiant beams from Thy holy face

With the dawn of redeeming grace

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

Jesus, Lord

"It was a Christmas celebration in keeping with the command 'Peace on earth' and a memory which will stay with us always."

Snoopy vs Red Baron
Snoopy vs Red Baron

Snoopy's Christmas

Snoopy vs The Red Baron

High above the trenches another even more deadly battle was taking place. In the skies pilots were fighting quick and decisive battles.

Baron Manfred von Richtofen was known as the Red Baron. He was Germany's most feared pilot. He flew a red Albatross plane which is how he got his name. He was the most successful flying ace of World War I, being officially credited with 80 confirmed air combat victories.

Despite being know as the Bloody Red Baron, he was a soldier doing the job he was given in a kill or be killed atmosphere. Snoopy's Christmas song helps understand this and maybe he was one of those 100 000 soldiers who participated in the cease-fire over Christmas.

The song encompasses the small moment of peace and harmony on the battlefield that took place in WWI and is associated with the meaning of Christmas. It was one of a series of three songs created by The Royal Guardsmen in the late 1960s.

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum, Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!

The news had come out in the First World War

The bloody Red Baron was flying once more

The Allied command ignored all of its men

And called on Snoopy to do it again.

Was the night before Christmas, 40 below

When Snoopy went up in search of his foe

He spied the Red Baron, fiercely they fought

With ice on his wings Snoopy knew he was caught.

Christmas bells those Christmas bells

Ring out from the land

Asking peace of all the world

See it for yourself

Comments on my page? - Thanks for reading!

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    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 4 years ago from Templeton, CA

      What an interesting Christmas lens. I learned something tonight. Somehow, I believe most soldiers would stop fighting if their higher-ups would let them.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Hopefully some day there will be no more wars and Christmas can be a time of peace for everyone. Thanks for featuring my Civil War Christmas.

    • Hedremp profile image
      Author

      Sandra Wilson 5 years ago from Wilson Education Resource Centre

      @anonymous: How very cool! Thanks for posting, I will be sure to check you out on Facebook!

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      boutiqueshops 5 years ago

      What a wonderful idea! And so nicely done! Blessed by a squid angel.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Hey guys, the "Ol' Captain" here, fan club president for the band, "The Royal Guardsmen". We very much appreciate you showing them a little love, since they're actively playing and recording again, and we're trying to get the fan base kick started.

      Obviously, they're known for the big 3 hits they had, (Snoopy vs.Red Baron, Return of the Red Baron, and Snoopys Christmas) but they're also good musicians and really nice guys, too. Like most bands, their best stuff isn't what's played on the radio.

      If it's cool with you, we'd love anyone interested to come on over to facebook and "like" The Royal Guardsmen, and from there you can stay current regarding news, tour dates and we even have semi monthly giveaways, one should be coming up soon.

      I think I speak for the group when I say a great big thanks for this, have a great day, guys!

      Here's the link, www.facebook.com/theroyalguardsmen , hope to see you there!

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      burntchestnut 5 years ago

      I remember listening to the Snoopy vs. the Red Baron in grade school in the 1960s.

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      poutine 5 years ago

      Excellent presentation.

    • jadehorseshoe profile image

      jadehorseshoe 5 years ago

      VERY interesting lens.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Wicked Sandra. I guess you get the 3 points today!!! :) Thanks,i had no idea it was that detailed. Great Squidoo page too.

    • marigoldina profile image

      Heather B 5 years ago

      I always find the story of the Allies and the Central Powers exchanging gifts fascinating. Didn't they hold a game of football as well?