Joyeux Noël – Merry Christmas

We went to see Joyeux Noël tonight, a film about the Christmas 1914 fraternisation between the opposing sides in the First World War.

We both thought it was a really good film (well, asides from the lip synch for the opera singing), very moving and showing that the people in the trenches on both sides were human, no matter what the propaganda might have said. Of course as a fictionalisation of the real events purists may find things to complain about, but as a depiction of those trying to remain alive & keeping their humanity in the midst of so much death it really works.

It’s probably best to go and see it without reading about the film first because I’ve found that some of the sites that talk about it don’t really do it justice – not even the official site.

Returning to the question of what actually happened, the First World War site has an extensive section on the Christmas Truce and this section I thought summed things up nicely.

With their morale boosted by messages of thanks and their bellies fuller than normal, and with still so much Christmas booty to hand, the season of goodwill entered the trenches. A British Daily Telegraph correspondent wrote that on one part of the line the Germans had managed to slip a chocolate cake into British trenches.

Even more amazingly, it was accompanied with a message asking for a ceasefire later that evening so they could celebrate the festive season and their Captain’s birthday. They proposed a concert at 7.30pm when candles, the British were told, would be placed on the parapets of their trenches.

The British accepted the invitation and offered some tobacco as a return present. That evening, at the stated time, German heads suddenly popped up and started to sing. Each number ended with a round of applause from both sides.

The Germans then asked the British to join in. At this point, one very mean-spirited Tommy shouted: ‘We’d rather die than sing German.’ To which a German joked aloud: ‘It would kill us if you did’

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