Blog Caroling: WWI–The Song That Stopped The Fighting

This blog article was written to celebrate fM’s Annual Tradition of Blog Caroling. I’ve been participating for several years now, and appreciate that she continues it, as she says with  toddy in hand, clad in flannel jammies and  with furry slippers on.

Thankfully she has spritely fingers too that would be the envy of any elf.  If you would like to join in, there still is time to.

THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE 1914 (Q 11718) The
fraternizing of troops in Belgium on Christmas
Day 1914. Group of German soldiers with two
Englishmen, one in great coat and one in rear
wearing balaclava cap. Ploegsteert. Copyright:
© IWM. (Original Source link)

I have been focusing on writing about World War I for almost two years now, and though I will take a short break from the topic (for a week only) for the holiday season, I continue with that subject for this meme.

It was Christmas Eve of 1914, almost three years before the United States would enter World War I.  An official Christmas Truce had been proposed, even promoted by the Pope. The suggestion fell on deaf ears among the leadership of the nations involved. But some of the fighting men at the front had a different idea.

On Christmas eve starting about 8:30 p.m., the German soldiers in their trenches began to sing Christmas songs, especially the German “Silent Night.” The British troops on the other side of no-mans-land joined in, adding their chorus of “The First Noel.” In another location soldiers from the Royal Dublin Fusiliers crossed the battlefield to meet their still-enemies on December 26th and shake hands. Listen to this podcast which quotes from first-hand observations of that odd event.

A great deal has been written about this event. It did happen, despite the officers and leadership disapproving. The online blog at Smithsonian.com has a wonderful historically authentic story with photographs. A more modern tear-jerking commercial about the cease fire  (warning, video promotes Sainsbury) is worth watching despite the commercialism. It helps put a face on a terrible and horrifying event. The British War Museum story reminds us that the cease fire was also an opportunity to bury the many dead from an attack a few days earlier (on December 18th).

And so for this year’s blog caroling event, I present both the German and English versions of the song, Stille Nacht. Note that the English version of this song that most of us know is not the exact translation of the German words, so I have provided a more accurate version here.

Sing Along to the German version of Silent Night . . .

Stille Nacht! Heil’ge Nacht!
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hoch heilige Paar.
Holder Knab’ im lockigen Haar,
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!

Silent night! Holy night!
All are sleeping, alone and awake
Only the intimate holy pair,
Lovely boy with curly hair,
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace!

Stille Nacht! Heil’ge Nacht!
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
Lieb’ aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund’.
Jesus in deiner Geburt!

Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, O how he laughs
Love from your divine mouth,
Then it hits us – the hour of salvation.
Jesus at your birth!
Jesus at your birth!

See the rest of the song lyrics at Stille Nacht Gesellschaft

====Blog Caroling From Earlier Years======

Blog Caroling: This Time of Year (2016)

Blog Caroling: Granite State Christmas (2015)

====Featured On====

Filiopietism Prism

[Editor’s Note: this story is part of an on-going series about heroic New Hampshire men and women of World War I.  Look here for the entire listing].

This entry was posted in Carnivals and Memes, History, NH WW1 Military, Not New Hampshire and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Blog Caroling: WWI–The Song That Stopped The Fighting

  1. Amy says:

    I’ve never heard of this before—how lovely. And how painfully ironic it is that these men—the ones mostly likely to kill and be killed—were singing about heavenly peace in the midst of a war. Thanks for sharing, Janice!

  2. Linda Stufflebean says:

    I’ve heard the story of the WWI troops singing carols to the enemy. It’s hard to imagine with the world the way it is today, but I imagine it brought all of them a bit of peace and solace at the time.

  3. I greatly enjoyed this post, particularly the podcast with first-hand accounts.

  4. John D. Tew says:

    A very nice post — thank you for sharing (especially the more accurate translation of Silent Night into English). I note that your post is one of my recommendations this week in my weekly “Saturday Serendipity” post on Filiopietism Prism blog.

  5. Nancy says:

    I only learned about this truce a few years ago from a speaker at church, of all places. And then, of course, saw the commercial. How interesting to note the translation difference between the words in your post and the words in the carol. Thanks for sharing.

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