Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Joyeux Noel, A True Christmas Message


German soldiers of the 134th Saxon Regiment pose with men of the Royal 
Warwickshire Regiment in 'No Man's Land' on the Western Front, in
 December, 2014. Photo is in the Public Domain, taken from an
article HERE.
Twice, now, I’ve blogged at this time of year about Joyeux Noel, a 2005 film that was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film. 

The individual stories highlighted were fictitious, but the overall story is based on a true happening on a Christmas Eve in 1914, in the theater of war: Scottish, French, and German troops agreed to a cease fire and put down their weapons to celebrate Christmas Eve, even warning each other of planned shellings the next day and offering refuge in each other's trenches when the shellings occurred.

For all three military groups, the only thing that saved troops from being tried for treason was the fact that 200 or so in each case would have to be tried. Instead, all the participants were transferred to other fronts to make sure it wouldn't happen again. It was a remarkable film, and a story I won't forget.

The Sacramento Bee published an article last year about this phenomenon, a phenomenon that occurred in several places across Belgium and across the Western Front.

In the news article above, in Flanders Field, the site of John McCrae’s famous poem comparing the blood of slain British warriors to red poppies, German soldiers began playing music familiar to both German and British soldiers. Soon an informal truce was struck. Troops visited each other, gave each other food and even small gifts. Some played games. For a little while, Peace broke out. Afterwards, as in the movie, army generals made sure it would not happen again. In the following war years, at Christmastime generals stepped up the fighting to ensure no one would even think of a truce.


So here it is again, the New Year approaches. The Christmas message hovers still. And we still live in a troubled world, wondering how best to deal with it.

Best wishes to all for a time of peace, when people can forgive the atrocities of war and unite again in their common humanity.

28 comments:

Geo. said...

Wow. Thanks for this. Clearly, unless there is forgiveness there can be no repairs to the future. A poignant post, and a kind one. My best wishes to you.

Haddock said...

Some true stories are beyond our belief, especially those related to wars.

L.G. Smith said...

Merry Christmas!

I watched Joyeux Noel a few years ago and loved it. Beautiful story. :)

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Geo., thanks for stopping by and commenting. You are so right: With no forgiveness everyone stays locked into vengeance, which can go on forever.

Haddock, yes. When I watched the movie the first time, I found myself thinking, what a nice story, and if only things like that happened. And then I saw the credits. It broke my heart to think all these decent men were punished by their superiors.

L. G., glad you liked the movie. It's such a beautiful reminder of what's important.

Sharon Himsl said...

Yes, I remember hearing about this event. Have never seen the movie, would like to over the holiday. Merry Christmas!

Rosi said...

You know the old saying: No good deed goes unpunished. This is a heartwarming story, though. Have a merry Christmas.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Rosi, that certainly applied in this case, didn't it? So sad, even while heartwarming that the foot soldiers knew the value of what was at stake.

Sharon, it is the perfect Christmas movie. It's so moving, and really beautiful. Thanks for stopping by.

Wendy said...

Thoughtful post, Elizabeth.

Merry Christmas to you and yours from Down Under and Off to the side :)

Lady Lilith said...

Have a very happy holiday.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hello, Lady Lilith. Thanks for stopping by. You do too.

Hi, Wendy. Thanks for your comment. Happy Holidays.

Sandra Cox said...

Isn't that amazing, wonderful and terribly sad.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Sandra, I couldn't say it any better: amazing, wonderful, and terribly sad. Thanks for stopping by.

Julia Hones said...

The motivations for wars are ignited at an early age, when kids are exposed to cartoons of "good" against "bad" guys. And they are all taught at a very early age that violence is the way to fix it.
Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Elizabeth.
Happy New Year.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Julia, Your reply was also thought-provoking. I'm not sure that cartoons are to blame. They probably express that urge in people to "get even" that later has to be channeled into more appropriate ways. In that sense, they may act as a vent until people mature and learn to sort out things. I think parental and community guidance are the keys. Hope you have a happy new year, too.

J.L. Campbell said...

That's a heartwarming story, Elizabeth. Pity all the people who are determined to continue fighting nowadays aren't hit by good sense and trying to solve their problems by dialogue. Happy New Year to you too!

Jeanmarie Anaya said...

I read about this recently, and was so overwhelmed by it that I couldn't stop thinking about it all day. I wonder if something wonderful and humane like that could happen in today's age. I'd like to think so, but I'm not so sure. Then again, I'm not a soldier and don't know what it feels like to be in that moment. I pray for all of them. It must be horribly difficult.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Joy, thanks for stopping by. Yes, it is a shame we turn to war so easily as the remedy for disagreements.

Jeanmarie, if you were moved by this, you would be moved by the War Poems of Siegfried Sasoon. He served in the British Army during WWI and wrote a poem that I read as a teenager that probably is responsible for turning me into a pacifist. His poems put you there in the trenches and break your heart.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

I read this book and it was wonderful, also giving me an insight into this war I hadn't realized, having mostly studied about WWII rather than WWI. Happy New Year, Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Karen, I was a history major in college, too, but studied the period in Europe between the two world wars. I had never heard of this incident either. (Or incidents, since it happened up and down the front.) Happy New Year to you, too.

David P. King said...

I still need to see this movie. Wishing you a very Happy New Year, Elizabeth! :)

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Thanks, David, and the same wishes to you.

Connie Keller said...

I love the story of what happened on those fields. It brings tears to my eyes every time.

I hope you're having a lovely new year.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Thanks, Connie, I hope you are, too. Yes, this story brings tears to my eyes, too.

Janet Johnson said...

Such a neat story. It's sad that peace was ushered away. I really can't imagine the atrocities of war those men experienced. But the power of Christmas is amazing.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

You are so right, Janet. I like to think that Christmas is a reminder that we can do better. It certainly reminded these brave, independent troops, that there is a better way to relate.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hope you had a very Happy Holidays Elizabeth. How is the writing going?

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Rachna, we did, and hope you did too. Writing is going well. Working with formatting issues, but just normal stuff. :-) Hope your own writing is going well, too.

Carol Riggs said...

Definitely a poignant post. Here's wishing you a wonderful 2015!!