On Christmas Day, 1914, an informal truce was declared between enemy soldiers. This rogue ceasefire led to one of the most iconic moments in the Great War: A Christmas game of football between British and German soldiers. The men played in no-man’s land between the trenches of 300 feet of mud, seared remnants of tree trunks and barbed wire.
It started the night prior, on Christmas Eve, when some of the men began to sing Christmas carols. Before long soldiers on both sides were singing to each other.
On Christmas Day, the Germans left their trenches and made for the middle. "Here, indeed, was courage," wrote Frederick Heath, a private in the British Army. "Not seeking the security of the shelter but a brazen invitation to us to shoot and kill with deadly certainty. But did we shoot? Not likely! We stood up ourselves and called benisons on the Germans.Then came the invitation to fall out of the trenches and meet half way."
A football was pulled out and a game was played before the enemies returned to their respective sides to resume their war.
There are monuments to the event, a movie about it, Joyeux Noël. It’s even the subject of a Christmas ad for Sainsbury's, a supermarket chain in the UK. But, more than a hundred years later, we’re still not really sure what happened.
It’s likely the storied Christmas football match was just a myth, but a 100 years ago it didn’t matter. The story of a moment of normality in the midst of absolute horror reminded us of our common humanity.