Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Song for Christmas Eve


A Song for Christmas Eve

This evening marks the 101st anniversary of a remarkable event that took place in France during World War I. Known as the Christmas Truce, & celebrated in song and story, surging with a 1984 recording by folksinger, John McCutcheon.

First, a look at the etymology of the word truce, then onto the Christmas Truce: what some might call a temporary ebb in hostilities, some might call a miracle, & some might call a reflection of the true nature of humanity.

Truce showed up in English in the 1200s, meaning treaty, covenant, or faith. It came from an Old English word that meant pledge, promise, faith or agreement, which came from a Proto-Indo-European verb meaning hope, believe, or trust.

The Christmas Truce was an unsanctioned agreement between German and British soldiers to cross into No-Man’s Land on Christmas Eve &/or Christmas day, where to quote McCutcheon’s song, “with neither gun nor bayonet, we met them hand to hand.” The men sang carols, shook hands, shared food, liquor & cigarettes, played soccer, & traded photographs of the people back home that they loved.

Based on a word meaning hope, believe or trust, the Chirstmas Truce offered exactly that to soldiers who’d spent the previous weeks huddling in muddy trenches, surrounded by the horrors of war. The generals in charge didn’t participate, but a lot of infantrymen did, and not all on that one Christmas Eve. Afterward, soldiers arranged follow-up unofficial truces as the war dragged on, so that all told, up to 100,000 soldiers took the opportunity to lay down their guns & celebrate peace.

Here’s a Christmas wish for more of the same in the very near future.

If you’ve got six and a half minutes & you’d like to hear John McCutcheon sing the song, you can do so here.

Peace to you all.


Big thanks to this week’s sources History.com, Eyewitness to History, Wordnik, Etymonline, & the OED

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this Chester. I've heard this story before and it's heartbreaking. It shows our humanity, and how soldiers are only pawns in the game of war, endless war. The song lovely as well.

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  2. Thanks, Lee - may your holidays be bright.

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  3. Charlie, this is a lovely, heartfelt post. Just what I needed to read this Christmas Day. Love and hugs to you and yours and for a happy and healthy 2016, my friend. Paul

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  4. Hey Paul - Thanks. Here's to a steaming heap of peace in 2016. Our world could use it.

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  5. Charlie, I have never heard this song before although I am well aware of the story. The song touched my heart so deeply. I'm sitting hear in the warm comfort of my little home crying for the many who don't have a home because of a handful of crazy people (and it is always just a handful) who think killing each other is the answer. Someday...hopefully someday, the moments of truce will overcome the moments of crazy.

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  6. Christine - I'm so glad to have introduced you to this song. It's worth surfing YouTube for other renditions. I chose the one that was mostly just the song. In some videos he explains the experience of playing this song in Europe & being approached by a bunch of old German men who lived the song. It's chilling & lovely all at the same time.

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  7. Thank you so much for this, Charlie. I know this story well, having read a few of the many books published about the truce, including the one written by McCutcheon, but had never heard the song. Wow! What a beauty. Really heart wrenching. So much more poignant than any of the stories. I'll be sure to share this rendition with my grandchildren when they are old enough.

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