Saturday, December 10, 2005

Christmas fights back

Bill O’Reilly and others have lately been bemoaning a supposed “War on Christmas” by secularists and retailers. What the handwringers may not realize is how much power Christmas possesses to defend itself against its real enemies, and how effectively it has done so in the past without any loudmouthed assistance from the cheap seats. I wonder, though, whether the true (rather than commercial) spirit of Christmas is one that they would be so eager to defend.

Here’s a song based on a number of true incidents that occurred all along the Western Front on Christmas Eve 1914. Click here to listen to the song. Click here to learn more about the 1914 “Christmas Truce”.

Christmas in the Trenches
© 1984 John McCutcheon

My name is Francis Tolliver. I come from Liverpool.
So long ago the war was waiting for me after school.
To Belgium and to Flanders, to Germany to here
I fought for King and country I love dear.

'Twas Christmas in the trenches, where the frost so bitter hung
The frozen fields of France were still, no Christmas song was sung.
Our families back in England were toasting us that day,
Their brave and glorious lads so far away.

I was lying with my messmate on the cold and rocky ground
When across the lines of battle came a most peculiar sound.
Says I, "Now listen up, me boys!" Each soldier strained to hear
As one young German voice sang out so clear.

"He's singing bloody well, you know!" my partner says to me.
Soon, one by one, each German voice joined in harmony.
The cannons rested silent, the gas clouds rolled no more
As Christmas brought us respite from the war.

As soon as they were finished and a reverent pause was spent
"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen," struck up some lads from Kent.
The next they sang was "Stille Nacht." "'Tis 'Silent Night,'" says I,
And in two tongues one song filled up that sky.

"There's someone coming towards us!" the front line sentry cried.
All sights were fixed on one lone figure trudging from their side.
His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shone on that plain so bright
As he bravely strode unarmed into the night.

Soon one by one on either side walked into No Man's Land.
With neither gun nor bayonet we met there hand to hand.
We shared some secret brandy and wished each other well
And in a flare lit soccer game we gave 'em hell.

We traded chocolates, cigarettes, and photographs from home,
These sons and fathers far away from families of their own.
Young Sanders played his squeezebox, and they had a violin,
This curious and unlikely band of men.

Soon daylight stole upon us, and France was France once more.
With sad farewells we each prepared to settle back to war,
But the question haunted every heart that lived that wondrous night
"Whose family have I fixed within my sights?"

'Twas Christmas in the trenches, where the frost so bitter hung.
The frozen fields of France were warmed as songs of peace were sung.
For the walls they'd kept between us to exact the work of war
Had been crumbled and were gone forevermore.

My name is Francis Tolliver. in Liverpool I dwell.
Each Christmas come since World War I, I've learned its lessons well:
That the ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame,
And on each end of the rifle we're the same.


At December 10, 2005 at 8:00:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The true spirit of Christmas is peace and love.

At December 10, 2005 at 8:19:00 PM EST, Blogger PeaceBang said...

If you're a Christian fighting other Christians, I guess you can be human enough to risk a truce on Christmas Day. If you're Christian fighting Muslims, when do you get to risk the truce?

(and... why the sheep graphic for the song, I wonder?)

At December 10, 2005 at 9:34:00 PM EST, Blogger fausto said...

I guess the answer depends on whether you're fighting them in the First Crusade or later. Sadly, a lot of tainted water has passed under that bridge.

BTW, what sheep graphic?

At December 11, 2005 at 6:42:00 PM EST, Blogger Robin Edgar said...

God fights back. . .

At December 11, 2005 at 7:09:00 PM EST, Blogger Robin Edgar said...

The Emerson Avenger Fights No Truce In Advertising. . .

At December 21, 2005 at 2:59:00 PM EST, Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Happy Winter Solstice Fausto!

I froze my bU*Utt off this morning photographing the winter solstice sunrise from Mount-Royal overlooking the Montreal skyline.

Allah prochaine,

Robin Edgar


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