This Christmas Day marks the 101st anniversary of the legendary Christmas Truce of 1914. World War I had been underway for nearly five months when British and German troops chose of their own accord to defy orders and declared a truce with one another, because it was Christmas. It began on Christmas Eve late at night as both sides dug vigilantly in their trenches, clutching their weapons, when the soft sound of carols began to move faintly through the cold winter air:
“Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright.”
And after a few moments, those English voices were joined by those on the other side of the field, in German. No shots were fired that night. The next morning as British soldiers peered through their scopes, with fingers on their triggers, out climbed one German soldier from his trench into the open field carrying no weapon. Then another, and another. The Germans yelled out, in poor English, “Merry Christmas!” And after several anxious seconds a British soldier called out, “Frohe Weihnachten!”
Soldiers from both sides climbed out of their trenches, leaving their weapons behind, and greeted each other on the battlefield with outstretched hands. They shared family photos and even exchanged gifts; cigarettes, little desserts, buttons from their coats. They chopped down a pine tree and decorated it with candles and paper lanterns. They bonded over similar backgrounds as poor working class people, and found more in common with one another than with their elitist superiors who gave orders from the safety of their wealthy homes by the fireplace. At last, a game of fúbol (o.k. soccer) was initiated with a tin can and they played. They played. Together they laughed and played as brothers of the human race, and for a moment they forgot what they were fighting about.
I wish the story ended there. But as the upper ranks got wind of these shenanigans, they quickly sent orders to commence the fighting and soldiers who were sharing pictures of their loved ones with one another only hours before, were now back to the business of killing each other. But don’t let that tiny detail nullify the miracle that did happen. The fact that we are able to make choices every day of our lives, choices to put down our weapons, defy authority if need be, these are miracles waiting to happen.
Peace is always a choice. We always hear about peace and goodwill during the holiday season, but we continue to find ourselves in one kind of stand off or another. I’m not even talking about nations, really. War is the direct result of regular people doing what they’re told. We are taught to hate, distrust, and fear the enemy in order to carry out the dirty deeds of the ruling elite. War makers collect fortunes playing on the fears and insecurities they have created for us, and we bought it. The fear is manufactured. We don’t need protection. We don’t need the bullshit freedom they are selling us. Because we already are free. And we are many. Many, many more than the elite. We just need to wake up!
Peace is right here. If we cannot find peace within ourselves, how can we expect it to happen on a global scale? As long as we are under the delusion that some benevolent leader is going to make it happen for us, we will continue to do what we are told. We cannot wait for peace any longer. Waiting for it pushes it out into the future, which takes us away from the present. And the present is all we really have. It’s the only time peace can take place. Peace is now. Those soldiers found peace that night, looking up from their death soaked trenches at the starry sky above. And no, it didn’t last, but it was real in that moment. They were free. And so are we.
Once you find peace, goodwill springs forth naturally. All people are good people. And if you find any exceptions to this, you are simply not at peace. Those people who you think are bad people are actually good people who likely haven’t found peace either. Every living being is deserving of goodwill. And the ability to show goodness, kindness, compassion, this is something we all have (because we are all good people). The soldiers on that battlefield were not exceptional. But they were good. The choice to do good is always ours, and it is always available, and when we do good, even if fear is present, we often find peace in the very act itself.
I said earlier that I wished the story had ended with all nations coming together in brotherly love, but as I write this, I am realizing that the fact that it was not a panacea for world war makes it so much more powerful and closer to the truth. I think when we hear “peace on earth” we think it has to do with some magical time when nations will all come together in harmony and nobody will ever hurt one another ever again, like some kind of spell will take us over. But that puts the responsibility on something other than ourselves. Peace is not something that happens to us from some outside force. It’s already in us. We just have to choose it.
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him . . . We need not wait to see what others do.” –Mahatma Gandhi
So with that I will leave you with one of my favorite Christmas songs of all time . . .
(Warning: graphic images)
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Written by Jiovann Carrasco, LPC-S
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