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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: It’s Christmas Day (in the present or living memory) (11/27/08)

TITLE: The Christmas Truce
By Ruth Neilson
12/03/08


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The sun slowly set and Peter found himself nervously peering over the trench. His buddy had done the same, only to be rewarded with a bullet in his skull. Today had been unique though. The Eastern front had been quiet. Everyone had assumed that the war would be over by the end of the year, but the evidence that was etched deep into the soil in France spoke otherwise.

It was Christmas and Peter knew it was only a matter of time before blood was shed on this Holy Day. There hadn’t been a day since he arrived at the trenches that artillery shells had rained down on them.

Peter tugged his jacket closer and shivered as the wind blew across No-Man’s Land. He could hear German voices melding together in a melody that he knew too well.

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht...

Peter shook his head and sank into his trench and settled onto a board. He fished out a worn letter from his jacket pocket and began to read the last letter from his family. He missed them...

Idly, Peter wondered what they were doing. His siblings were probably preparing to go to the Christmas service. His little sister would be singing with the choir, her blond hair carefully curled into perfect ringlets.

“Incoming!”

The single word caused Peter to throw himself into the muck; he covered his head, and neck with his arms and braced himself for the impact of the shell. “God, please, I don’t want to die,” he breathed.

The object landed in front of him with a wet splat.

There was no explosion.

Peter lifted his head and stared in disbelief. A round ball had landed in front of him. It was a...a soccer ball? He had been afraid for his life because of soccer ball?!

Distant laughter filtered from No-Man’s Land and Peter pushed himself and the ball up. With one hand, he lifted the ball over his head and with the other; he tossed his helmet to the ground. Peter let out a laugh as he emerged from the trench, tossing the offending ball back across No-Man’s Land. That single motion broke the tension that seized the trench and warm chuckles slowly spread among his buddies.

“You play?” A German asked, snatching the ball from the ground. Peter found himself nodding once and the German smiled and tossed the soccer ball back at Peter. “Let’s play then, no need to be fighting today, ja?”

Peter grinned and dropped the ball before experimentally dribbling it with his knees. Finally, he offered his name, “I’m Peter.”

The German nodded. “Josef.”

Peter extended his hand and Josef grasped it. “Merry Christmas, Josef.”

“Merry Christmas, Peter.”

Without another word, Peter grinned, dropped the ball to the ground, and kicked it once towards Josef as an open invitation. The young German grinned in return and accepted the invitation.

~~
Silent Night Music: Franz Xaver Gruber, 1818; Words: Joseph Mohr, 1816/1818

This story is based on the actual events of Christmas in 1914. For more information, you can read about it here: http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/christmastruce.htm


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This article has been read 577 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 12/04/08
Amazing that in time of war, even opposing forces can stop to share what they have in common. Too bad we couldn't repeat that principle more often. Well done.
Sharon Kane12/05/08
Well told! Looking back on the event we can easily forget the soldiers didn't wake up that Christmas day KNOWING they wouldn't fight. Your opening lines caught the fear they must have experienced. Then we breathe a sigh of relief with Peter as he dares to trust enough to climb out of the trench. Great writing.
Catrina Bradley 12/08/08
I love stories that bring history alive, and you did it very well! It's amazing how the opposing forces in the war could find peace with each other. If only we celebrated Christmas every day!
Betty Castleberry12/08/08
I've heard of this before, but never in such detail. You told this story very well. There's a great message here, too. Kudos.
Leah Nichols 12/09/08
I teared up....I'll admit it. I've heard briefly of the story but your details made it so clear. Well done!
Jan Ackerson 12/09/08
Awesome, Ruth! This makes me unbelievably sad...I detest war, and killing, and I really appreciate that you gave us a very real look at the wonderful soldiers who fight.
Charla Diehl 12/09/08
You brought a war torn part of history alive in such a real way. Great story telling.
Pamela Kliewer12/09/08
Wonderfully told story of a piece of history. Excellent writing.
Karlene Jacobsen 12/09/08
I've heard of things like this happening. A moment of peace in a time of great turmoil.
Great story!
Teresa Lee Rainey12/10/08
I, for one, had never heard of this. What a wonderful event in war time. You told it so very well. Made me enjoy being educated tonight. :)