99 years ago today, something truly incredible happened. It was the first Christmas of World War One. Millions of young men all over Europe found themselves spending it deep in the trenches. For many of them, it was their first Christmas away from home, (let alone at war). Most of them had enlisted out of a sense of duty, and because the propaganda machines back home (on both sides) had told them all that the enemy was evil, monstrous – incapable of basic human decency. They were told that their very way of life was in danger.
But on the first Christmas of the war, soldiers (at various points all over the front) laid down their arms and called a truce. Now, regardless of whether or not you celebrate the holiday, or what your personal feelings may be about it, I think this event calls for real examination, and deserves to be celebrated.
Nobody ordered the truce. In fact, it could very well have been punished as an act of insubordination – of treason. But the soldiers spontaneously laid down their arms and celebrated Christmas with their “enemy.” Think about that – the risks they all took to follow a collective impulse – to satisfy a mutual hunger for common decency – for faith in the goodness of their fellow man.
No one knows precisely how it started. Some say it was caroling – Silent Night on one end of No Man’s Land, Stille Nacht on the other. Others say it was a joke. Tossing a gift instead of a grenade. But by the end of the night, they were singing. They were dancing. They traded cigarettes, booze, chocolates, and dirty photographs. They cut down a tree and decorated it with what they had lying around. They played soccer by the light of their flares.
Love. Tolerance. Friendship. This magic we feel when we watch My Little Pony is not just a feel-good illusion. It is a celebration of our own better natures – of the potential for goodness in us all. The Christmas Truce of 1914 was an act of brotherhood and friendship so powerful, I would only describe it as magic.
I can’t help but wonder. Each truce had to start with one man brave enough to step out into No Man’s Land all alone, waving that white flag – traversing that stretch between the trenches (that, ordinarily, pretty much meant certain death). Somebody had to be the first one to climb out and walk across it. Somebody with enough faith in the goodness of his fellow man to risk everything to reach out in an act of good will toward his “enemy.”
It’s easy to watch My Little Pony for a quick feel-good pick-me-up, and say “if only things like this happened here on Earth.” They do. Thank you, World War One Guys, for waving that flag of peace. It didn’t just show your “enemy” that the goodness in your hearts was something worth believing in.
It showed us all.
Happy Hearth’s Warming Eve, everypony.
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