The Truce

How The Christmas Truce Of 1914 Shows The World Has Become Less Civil

Source: Return of Kings

By Michael Sebastian

It was the first Christmas of World War I. German and British troops had already been dug into the trenches of the Western Front for five months when something of a miracle occurred. Men on both sides spontaneously stopped fighting and ventured out to the middle of the battlefield to greet each other as brothers.

That event, which we now call the Christmas Truce of 1914, gives us a glimpse into what Western civilization was like before the last vestiges of Christendom were snuffed out. And it also points the way forward for those of us who are not satisfied to just enjoy the decline.

How The Christmas Truce Of 1914 Shows The World Has Become Less Civil

Leading up to Christmas, 1914, there were several calls for a truce between the warring factions. In December, Pope Benedict XV, who had only been elected to the papacy three months before, called for a truce “that the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang.” His request was officially rejected, but the idea of a Christmas truce started to be discussed in Europe’s newspapers.

The Christmas Truce happened spontaneously. On Christmas Eve, German soldiers decorated their trenches with candles and even set up Christmas trees in celebration of Christmas. The Germans then began singing Christmas carols. The English, seeing the displays and hearing the carols, responded by singing carols of their own.

On Christmas Day, the Germans the two sides started to shout Christmas greetings to each other. The guns then went silent and men from both sides left their trenches to meet in the bullet-riddled “no man’s land” in between. The Germans and the English combatants met each other as brothers. They shook hands and exchanged food and souvenirs. English soldier Bruce Bairnsfather described the degree of camaraderie:

I wouldn’t have missed that unique and weird Christmas Day for anything… I spotted a German officer, some sort of lieutenant I should think, and being a bit of a collector, I intimated to him that I had taken a fancy to some of his buttons… I brought out my wire clippers and, with a few deft snips, removed a couple of his buttons and put them in my pocket. I then gave him two of mine in exchange… The last I saw was one of my machine gunners, who was a bit of an amateur hairdresser in civil life, cutting the unnaturally long hair of a docile Boche, who was patiently kneeling on the ground whilst the automatic clippers crept up the back of his neck.

The truce did not last long. By the next day, the killing had started again.  But for one brief moment, these men lived out true Christian brotherhood.  



  1. “Joyeux Noel” is a wonderful film depicting this miraculous event. It was released 10 years ago and remains part of my Christmas tradition. Two thumbs up!

  2. Michael Bauman says

    When there ate no politicians who agree with or even understand my viewpoint I have a difficult time with that point. Especially when even if they purport to agree they act against it once in office.

  3. George,

    This is one of the finest things you have written in terms of content. I know you will take some heat for it from certain quarters but I’m sure you knew that before posting it. Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

    “I have often thought to myself how it would have been if, when I served in the first World War, I and some young German had killed each other simultaneously and found ourselves together a moment after death. I cannot imagine that either of us would have felt any resentment or even any embarrassment. I think we might have laughed over it (p. 119).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis


    • George Michalopulos says

      Misha, you are too kind. I wish I had written this essay, alas, I merely reprinted it. Thanks for enjoying it though!

      • It was hard to see where the reprint ended and commentary began. Nonetheless, a good essay.

  4. Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

    Our founding fathers REVOLTED to escape the English MONARCHY.
    And let’s not forget that no Orthodox soldiers on either side participated in the English, German, French and American Christmas.
    The Russian Monarchy abolished their Patriarchate for centuries and replaced it with a BUREAU of the government (under a LAY Bureaucrat/Prokurator) called a Holy Governing Synod. Those Christian monarchies also invaded and violated the Orthodox capital in the Fourth Crusade. Henry VIII!….
    Some people, I admit, NEED a King to do the thinking for them/

    • George Michalopulos says

      Correction: our Founding Fathers revolted against the monarchy in order to create a Constitutional Republic made up of –and governed–by virtuous, religious, free-born men who had a stake in society.

      They didn’t brave the bitter cold at Valley Forge in order to give no-accounts like the Kardashians the right to vote or thugs like MSM-13 & the Crips the right to keep and bear arms.

    • One time St. John of Kronstadt was asked, what he thought of “democracy” (dyemokratia)? His answer ….
      “Dyemokratia, that’s below. Above KINGDOM !!

      • John Skatakoulis says

        Consider this, all decisions in the Church are made in a Synodal manner. Asking the Holy Spirit to act, a vote is taken. Democracy at work!

        • That’s bs. The laity does not elect these bishops, for the most part. It is like an unelected senate voting. Moreover, the laity cannot depose a bishop, only a synod can do that. That’s not democracy. Nor should it be. If you left Orthodox morality to the Orthodox in America, they would bury the faith.

      • Nicholas Chiazza says

        Well, what do you expect from a Tsarist? Democracy?

    • “Our founding fathers REVOLTED to escape the English MONARCHY.”

      Your Grace, would you care to comment on something more relevant, rather than the deeds and intentions of some inherently evil, dead white men? Such as lockdowns, crimes against humanity via coerced injections with deadly and transhumanistic “vaccines,” Mark of the Beast like Vaccine/health passports, and medical police state tyranny beyond anything the Founding Father of America could have ever imagined, and would ever have tolerated, from any form of government, nominal “republic/democracy” or not? Well, with the exception of that Patrick Henry guy, who famously said, “Give me Liberty or give me Death! Unless there’s a virus with a 99% recovery rate, in which case, strip me of my freedoms, my job, my Constitutional rights and put me under house arrest.”

  5. If 19th century “Christendom” had developed nuclear weapons, it wouldn’t have survived to ‘die’ in World War I, because Europe would have been a smoking radioactive wasteland. It’s precious when a site as toxic as Return of Kings waxes poetic about a mythologized “Christendom”, when what they really pine for isn’t the Gospel, but rather women being unable to vote, own property, divorce abusive husbands, or even say no to sex.

    It is amusing but not surprising that Mr. Michalopulos’s best source for a piece of Ye Olde World fetishizing is an utter cesspool of a blog created by a guy who makes Hugh Hefner look like a paragon of moral virtue.

    Return of Kings Community Beliefs

    5. A woman’s value significantly depends on her fertility and beauty. A man’s value significantly depends on his resources, intellect, and character.

    Bravo, bravo, Mr. Michalopulos. I know it’s hard work to top re-blogging white nationalists, but you manage.

    • George Michalopulos says

      The essay in question was not written by Roosh Valezadeh, the proprietor of that website.

      Instead of killing the messenger, why not critique the message? If I had to guess it’s because lib/progism is in its intellectual and cultural death throws.

      • Nate Trost says

        Critiquing the message is trivial. Apparently, a singular extraordinary non-repeated event during one of many many intra-European wars during a “glorious era of Christendom” is proof that a centuries long period punctuated with regular warfare and imperialistic ugliness is somehow superior to decades of peace in post World War II Europe because, well, feminism and lack of monarchies or something.

        It’s a breathtakingly stupid argument which consists solely of latching onto a single anomaly, and using it to ascribe a rosy fantasy to an ugly age that lacked some things the author reviles in the present day. It’s every bit as facile as an aging hippie trying to insist that the 60s were a pinnacle of human history because Woodstock was just so groovy.

        And from the other writings of that author, Michael Sebastian, it’s pretty clear he reviles the notion of women having any sort of autonomy.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Any amateur historian can rebut your critique easily. Before the Great War, almost all European wars (i.e. within Christendom) were remarkably short and fought along strict parameters. In the Middle Ages these parameters were known as “the truce of God” and the “peace of God.”

          The only exception was the Thirty Years War, whose massive bloodletting was made possible by the Reformation and Counter-reformation. Once the Catholic universality of Europe was sundered by the Reformation, then the Catholic constraints on warfare were removed.

          Happily, with the Treaty of Westphalia, these constraints were revived in secular form. Eventually they became known as the Geneva Conventions and they worked remarkably well until 1914.

          The only exception was The War Between the States when all of Europe was horrified by the industrial-sized destruction that the Union government pursued against the agrarian South. That war was an American precursor to the meat-grinder that was to be the Great War.

          • Nate Trost says

            “Almost all” being of course, some of them, except for the many which weren’t. It’s the continent which gave us the Hundred Years War! It’s not like there isn’t an exhaustive list of the ones just within Europe. Trying to suggest that the Napoleonic Wars, for instance, were short or didn’t have an enormous impact on the civilian population is laughable. And all this is completely leaving aside what ‘Christendom’ did outside the borders of Europe.

            No, my point remains, ‘Christendom’ grasped each deadly new technology of warfare in an escalating spiral through the centuries until it attained the level required to unleash the carnage of the first World War. Railway logistical support, artillery, machine guns, send those back a hundred years in time to the early 19th century and see what happens. Better yet, send nukes back to the same time period and watch the fireworks. Because the reality of European history is far blacker than your rose-tinted mythologies.

            • Johann Sebastian says

              I think that, in time, historians will look back at the present age and see “progressive America” as the nation that blessed the world with a Second Hundred Years’ War.

          • Who to blame says

            “Any amateur historian…” is key here. The Treaty of Westphalia had nothing to do with the Geneva Convention. See:

          • Carl Kraeff says

            The Balkan Wars contained plenty of atrocities, and the last I checked the Balkans are in Europe. See the Report of the International Commission to Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars.

            I am not going to talk about the Armenian massacre as it happened mostly in Asia, nor will I point out the atrocities committed in the Russian pogroms as Russia has been and is more Asian than European.

            • George Michalopulos says

              Carl, Nate: please note, I never said that atrocities never happened during the Church Age (ca AD 325-1914) only that real, industrial strength genocide, murder and destruction happened after.

              The Hundred Years War was mostly a series of truces punctuated by outbreaks of hostilities between England and France. (Kind of like an American football game.) During the truces, English and French nobles fraternized constantly.

              As for Napoleon, he was a religious skeptic in the Jeffersonian/Lincolnesque sense. Regardless, he commandeered the machinery of a anti-Christian, revolutionary state and abided by its republican niceties to the extent that he did not take the title of king but rather, First Consul then Emperor –very much like Augustus, two thousand years earlier.

              Like the War Between the States, the Napoleonic Wars were a foreshadowing of the destructive military holocausts that modern, democratic nation-states would unleash during the 20th century. The only reason that (in retrospect) they weren’t as totalitarian in their destruction is because military technology had not yet reach its present day potential. Dynamite hadn’t yet been invented nor had the machine gun (or the airplane). Nor was it possible for states that relied mostly on agriculture to be able to set up concentration camps in order to warehouse hostile local populations on an industrial scale.

              Carl, as for the pogroms in Russia, the first one took place in Odessa in the early 1800s –and it was against the local Greek population. A fracas had erupted between the Greeks and the Jews and the Russian constabulary was forced to shut it down. The end-result was Greeks’ loss of economic hegemony over that city, losing out to the Jews. The trigger seems to have been the anger the Greeks felt towards the Jews who had been harassing them during the funeral procession of Patriarch Gregory V of Constantinople. (That’s a long story for another day.)

              Regardless, subsequent pogroms against Jews in Russia were the result of local turbulence which resulted from economic dislocations having to do with Jewish monopolies given to them by the Tsars. (This was also the case in the Iberian Caliphate and the Norman Conquest of England, among others.) To this day (and contrary to Fiddler on the Roof), no serious historian of the pogroms (Jews included) have ever found any evidence that the pogroms were instigated by the Tsarist government. Inevitably, they were always the result of localized anger caused by economic competition between Jews and the host population –at least in Russia.

        • Michael Warren says

          More people were killed in the post Christian twentieth century in wars waged by secularists than in the combined history of mankind.

          Secularists have situational ethics with shifting goal posts with ruthless amorality as a principle. So when certain demagogues talk about Christian hypocrisy and such, I refer them to the anti Christian gas chambers and mass graves of novus ordo saeculorum.

  6. Daniel E Fall says

    This is my last official post on this blog.

    I have learned a few things along the way…not many of them good, but one excellent.

    I think the essay, while intriguing, misses badly-sorry George. When we write, criticism is certain.

    Thanks for the opportunity to usually express my First Amendment here. I just no longer wish to do so, and am interestingly following Fr. Washburn’s example unless I’m mistaken.

    Good fortune to all of you who have engaged me and offered perspectives.

    May you all have a blessed 2016 and future. Farewell

    • George Michalopulos says

      Godspeed to you as well.

    • Patrick Henry Reardon says

      Good fortune to all of you who have engaged me and offered perspectives. May you all have a blessed 2016 and future. Farewell

      Happy Trails, Daniel

    • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

      Great idea! I think I’ll join Fall, Washburn & Co., too. Prosit!

  7. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    Amen, and Amen. May we all have a New Year, and to our Orthodox Brothers and Sisters on the Patristic Calendar may you have a blessed Fest of the Nativity.

    Peter A. Papoutsis

  8. John Skatakoulis says

    Rev. Gounaris Has Gone to Canada with his Mistress – TNH EXCLUSIVE
    DECEMBER 28, 2015

    Rev. Anastasios Gounaris, the former presiding priest of the St. Nicholas parish in Tarpon Springs Florida, now lives in Canada with a married mistress.

    Rev. Anastasios Gounaris, the former presiding priest of the St. Nicholas parish in Tarpon Springs Florida, now lives in Canada with a married mistress.

    Source: The National Herald
    Rev. Anastasios Gounaris, former presiding priest of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, FL, who last June abruptly left his parish and family and departed the United States for an unknown destination, now lives in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada with his mistress, Patricia T., TNH has learned. The love story between Fr. Gounaris and Canadian Patricia, who is said to be wealthy, began in 2012 or even before that in Chania, Crete, where she and her husband are building a summer home for their retirement there.
    Both Gounaris and Patricia are married with three adult children and grandchildren. Over the last few years the couple was planning to abandon their families without any notice and fly to Grete.

    While in Crete, Patricia convinced her husband to fly there, but when he arrived he found the locks changed. When she broke the news of her love affair to him, Gounaris was hiding in the house. The husband tried to convince her to return to Canada with him in order to save their marriage, but she refused.
    In May, Patricia went to Florida, pretending to visit relatives and friends, but really was there with Gounaris. The couple plans to return to Chania in the spring.

    Recently, Gounaris and Patricia returned to Tarpon Springs to gather his belongings, which he had stored in warehouse. Parish Council President Nikitas Manias took the couple to dinner.
    His Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta told TNH that “I tried to help Fr. Gounaris without knowing what condition he was in. I knew him from the time of the late Bishop Filippos in Astoria, who was Presbytera Maria’s uncle. I met Fr. Gounaris then, and I considered him a cleric who loved and cared for the Church. In my mind, I thought I was doing something honorable to the memory of Bishop Filippos.”

    Metropolitan Alexios said that “Fr. Gounaris hasn’t communicated with me since his departure last June and from what I have learned he hasn’t communicated with his wife, either. I was informed by the parish council president that he visited the United States and he went to Tarpon to pick up his personal belongings, and he said that he feels bad and that he will try to communicate with me.”

    So what will the Church do about Fr. Gounaris? “I have placed him on indefinite suspension,” Alexios said. “I don’t know where he is and I can’t contact him. As soon as I am able to communicate with him I will ask him to appear in front of the First Degree Spiritual Court.”
    Neither Gounaris nor Patricia responded to TNH’s request for comment. TNH was unable to reach Presbytera Maria Gounaris, who after Gounaris’ departure left Tarpon Springs to be close to her daughter, in Indianapolis.
    In an email sent to his parishioners on June 11, Fr. Gounaris wrote among other things that “it has been an honor serving Christ’s Church for nearly 32 years and to have had the privilege of serving St. Nicholas Cathedral for the past year. During that year I have been fortunate to benefit from the welcome, advice, support and assistance of many of you. However it is, at best, naive to believe that one priest can serve such a busy and thriving parish non-stop without it exacting an emotional and physical toll. After much soul-searching, this led to my decision to relinquish my parish duties and leave the active priesthood. I am convinced that no one benefits when a priest has been stretched beyond his human limits. Going forward I will have limited access to this e-mail account. Those e-mailing me should not expect a response, as I will have limited access to e-mail and phone going forward and will be retreating to assess my future course.”

    “I am grateful to Metropolitan Alexios, Metropolitan Nikitas and Father Rousakis for their kindnesses and to Council President Nikitas Manias, Vice-President Costas Sisois and the rest of the officers and members of the Parish Council for their support.”

    After an unsuccessful tenure as Dean of the Archdiocesan Cathedral in New York City, Gounaris was removed by Archbishop Demetrios and accepted by Metropolitan Alexios, who placed him at St. Nicholas.

  9. Should we be surprised? One article talks about his previous post before his one year in Tarpon Springs

    and it seems that he had a similarly situation in Indianapolis

    Also, see comment on article above on how he treated folks in Tarpon Springs

  10. “Atomized economic units”… or, as a UCLA psychiatrist put it, erasable blips on the computer screen of life.

  11. George Michalopulos says

    Gail & I wish each and every one of you a joyous (NC) Noel! We will remember to do so for all our brethren on the OC as well.

    Thank you for your readership, contributions, and well-wishes!

  12. George Michalopulos says

    As usual, and in his own inimitable way, Taki nails it (broadly speaking):

    • I think the writer’s Catholic wife is confused:

      “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” – Romans 12:19

      The Lord indeed is vengeful. Read the Apocalypse of St. John. Or the Old Testament. Or the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts.

      The Lord has a nice little temper on Him.

      Now, I like Taki and in general agree with him. However, the following is inexplicable:

      “Is my faith tied up with some vague promise of an afterlife? To be perfectly honest, the answer to that question is maybe, although I don’t count on it too much. One thing I don’t do is pray for things I desire. It’s called manipulation, and the Almighty does not do manipulation.”

      I have no idea where that is coming from, prayer for things we desire as manipulation. The examples from scripture are limitless. Yet if he does not afford himself too much hope in the afterlife, nonetheless he seems to believe in one sufficient to render the wicked into perdition.

      Nonetheless, I like Taki. It’s raw and straight from the hip, unfiltered.

  13. George Michalopulos says

    One of my favorite stories from our War for Independence:

  14. George Michalopulos says
  15. Yes, they were very civilized. They share a moment for Christmas. And then proceed to kill each other by the millions.

  16. Democracy: where the votes of two fools equal more than one vote of a wise man.

    • Problem is, that in autocracy the ruler might a fool too. There is no solution to this antinomy. Mixed systems has been tried, and they not always work. We live in a fallen world.

    • But who is wise? Bill Gates? Klaus Schwab?

  17. If the Orthodox Church is a democracy, then, and the Rule of the Church thus is given unto the people; then what more need is there for the Church to be the Kingdom of God on earth?

    I’m going to side with Saint John of Kronstadt on this one [as well I should], if it please the court of public opinion at large.