Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Truce



This World War I cannon, a reminder of the "war to end all wars," sits in front of the Veterans Memorial Building in Hanford, California. Dense fog, Christmas morning. Photo copyright 2004 Pat Browning.

By Pat Browning


Christmases past, small bright lights in the darkest of times. This blog was first posted on December 25, 2004, my last Christmas in California.


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That white stuff is ground fog, not snow. But this is Christmas Day, so the town was pretty much closed down anyway.


There are interesting Christmas stories in the papers, both print and online.


From the war in Iraq:
An online Washington Post headline: Fear Dims Christmas Eve in Baghdad. Steel barricades are up at the Virgin Mary Church of Palestine. Iraq's 800,000 Christians have lived peacefully among Muslims for centuries, but now they are afraid to come to church. Ah, Babylon ...


From World War I:
The Post also has an interesting story on the Christmas Truce of 1914, when British, French, Belgian and German soldiers came out of their trenches to sing, exchange food and tobacco, play soccer, bury their dead. Cultural historian Modris Eksteins is quoted as calling it "the last expression of that 19th-century world of manners and morals, where the opponent was a gentleman."


From World War II:
In The Hanford Sentinel, columnist Bob Case tells the special stories of two local people.


One, now a retired teacher, was in the first wave of Marines to hit the beach at Guadalcanal in 1942. He spent Christmas Eve in a jungle hospital, under blackout conditions. But after the patients had sung carols, the C.O. allowed them to light one match for just a moment as they sang "Silent Night."


In the second story, a local woman recalls Christmas Eve 1943, when a local church group went to a nearby POW camp to sing carols to Germans who had been captured in North Africa. After the church group finished singing, there was momentary silence behind the barbed wire fence, and then the sound of 400 German prisoners of war singing "Silent Night" in the original language ... "Stille Nacht!Hiel'ge Nacht! Alles schlaft ... "


Small, bright lights in the darkest of times.


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Wishing everyone joy in the holidays and a bright New Year!

5 comments:

Jean Henry Mead said...

Beautifully presented, Pat. How many of us celebrate CHRISTmas for the right reasons, anymore? This certainly brings a lump to my throat.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Loved it. Hanford probably looks the same right now, the Tule fog is back. We drove out to the Lemoore NAS last week and the fog through Hanford was pretty bad.

Marilyn

Pat Browning said...

Jean,

I feel like a fossil when I re-read that post. How many wars have we lived through since WW2? Korea, Vietnam, Iraq 1, Iraq 1, Afghanistan ... and those are just wars involving Americans. Where does it end?

On a happier note -- did you know Bob Case? I used to spend my lunch hours shopping in Case's Department Store! They always had just what I wanted -- Case's and Mirviss! Remember Mirviss?

Pat

Pat Browning said...

Marilyn,
At least you have escaped the snow and ice -- I hope! How is it in the foothills right now? Hope you have a great Christmas!
Pat

Jean Henry Mead said...

Marilyn,

Lemoore Naval Air Station was my beat as a young reporter during the Vietnam War. Most of the navy pilots were trained at NAS before flying their combat sorties from aircraft carriers. It was a sad as well as exciting time.