The Christmas Truce in Pop Culture

A still from the 2006 film ‘Joyeux Noel’

It is one of the most remarkable events in modern human history, and changed the way war was viewed forever, but how has the Christmas Truce been portrayed in popular culture in the century since it took place?

The events of Christmas Eve 1914 took place along large stretches of the Western Front. Following three months of brutal fighting, soldiers on both sides had grown weary of the slaughter taking place around them.

In the late hours of the day, sporadic singing broke out on either side of no man’s land. The guns fell silent and, for a brief time, sanity returned to the wartorn fields of northern France.

The truce is well documented in books, both fact and fiction, outlining the memories of the men who were involved and the impact it had in the high command of armies on both sides of the front.

‘Christmas Truce by the men who took part’ collects first hand accounts of the soldiers who were in the trenches during the truce.

From the early stages of the truce, right through to the exchanging of gifts and drinks from the men sitting in no man’s land, the words of the soldiers bring to life the remarkable event.

The collective of letters from soldiers of English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh troops is one of the biggest ever put together, and it is a read which reminds us of the human involvement in the truce.

The truce has, of course, been depicted often on the big screen. A stand out film, and perhaps not a particularly known war film, is ‘Joyeux Noel’.

Following the tale of German, Scottish and French soldiers during the truce. We are taken from the trenches on either side of no man’s land, to the friendly events which the truce is most remembered for.

The initial reluctance from all three sides as to what was going on is thawed out by a soldier, who we later find out is a tenor, from the German side picking up a Christmas tree and taking his singing out into no mans land.

The art of the Sabaton song ‘Christmas Truce’ released earlier this year

The following morning is when the three sides really come together, to firstly bury the dead lost in attacks made by the Germans and the allies, and then to come together and share Christmas Day in peace.

The film is relatively low key, but it is something which is raw and encapsulates the human impact of the truce. The joy, anxiety, fear and hope showed that at the end of it all, the men had been divided by the words of their leaders.

The film touches on how the men felt more of a connection to their ‘enemy’ during the truce than they ever did with their politicians back home.

The tale of the truce has been told in songs throughout the years, and the most recent musical version is provided by Swedish metal band Sabaton.

The heavy metal telling of the truce is one which sends shivers down your spine.

And today we’re all brothers

Tonight we’re all friends

A moment of peace in a war that never ends

Today we’re all brothers

We drink and unite

Now Christmas has arrived and the snow turns the ground white

Hear carols from the trenches

We sing O Holy Night

Our guns laid to rest among snowflakes

A Christmas in the trenches

A Christmas on the front far from home

These are the lyrics which perhaps typifies the mood of the truce. Christmas had arrived and for a brief moment, peace broke out.

The men were able to put their guns down and enjoy the gift of being alive without the fear of being killed for just a brief spell.

The biggest shame of the entire truce, is that it didn’t last longer.

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I am a journalist with an honours degree from Coventry University. I’m a published author and journalist with several years experience

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Patrick Hollis

Patrick Hollis

I am a journalist with an honours degree from Coventry University. I’m a published author and journalist with several years experience

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