On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary pause of the war for Christmas. However, military officials refused to create any official ceasefire. Still, on Christmas, the soldiers along the western front in France, where the Germans were fighting both the British and the French, declared their own unofficial truce.
Early on Christmas Day, German soldiers emerged from their trenches. They approached the lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in English. At first, the British soldiers feared it was a trick.
A German officer, Walter Kirchhoff, a tenor with the Berlin Opera, started singing Silent Night in German and then in English. British Soldiers emerged singing Joy to the World. When the British finished, a German soldier shouted, “Don’t Shoot! We will send beer.” Once they saw the Germans were unarmed, the British came out with their hands on their head, showing they had no weapons shouting in English, “Merry Christmas!” and shook hands with the soldiers. The British soldiers exchanged gifts they had received from Princess Mary, the daughter of King George V, such as cigarettes, tobacco, and chocolates. Some Germans lit Christmas trees around their trenches, and there is even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a game of soccer. It is reported the Germans won 2-1.
Since it was not an official ceasefire, the truce was different along different points throughout the front. In some places, the soldiers continued to fight, but they stopped fighting and agreed to a temporary ceasefire in many areas.
Some officers were unhappy with the truce and worried that it would undermine the military’s goal.
After 1914, the High Commands on both sides tried to prevent any further truces on a similar scale from happening again. The British High Command issued a warning to officers that the Germans were going to attack on Christmas. Despite this, there were isolated incidents of soldiers holding brief truces later in the war, not only at Christmas.
For more information on the Christmas Truce of 1914, visit: