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Good winter solstice and a happy new trip around our Sun.

Leif RømckeDec 24, 2020, 10:45:13 PM

Christmas Eve 1914. The evening is clear and cold. The moon shines over no man's land between the trenches of Englishmen and Germans. The English High Command is nervous that the enemy will launch an attack on Christmas or New Year's Eve. The generals have no idea what's going to happen.

An English soldier gapes. What happens on the other side? Candles are lit. Light appears here and there. Lanterns, torches and ... A Christmas tree is lit! Then he hears: «Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht». Never has an anthem been so beautiful. He survives the war and says that this was one of the highlights of his life.

The British soldiers answered with "The First Noel". The Germans applaud and counter with «O Tannenbaum». This goes on and on for a while, until the two enemy camps together sing "O Come, All Ye Faithfull" in Latin. Two nations sing the same anthem in the middle of a war!

On Christmas Day, some of the bravest Englishmen went up from the trenches past the barbed wire barriers and shook hands with the enemy. Then they waved at the rest, and they followed like a bunch of hooligans, who were going to a football game. They exchanged gifts. The British offered chocolate, tea and pudding. The Germans handed out cigars, sauerkraut and schnapps.

And there were football matches. Helmets were used as goal posts. A match ends 3 - 2 for Germany. Another match ends 4 - 1 for England. Thanks to football and Christmas, mortal enemies came together as friends.

Most Britons were amazed at how friendly the Germans were. In England, they had been exposed to propaganda and fake news from newspapers such as the Daily Mail. The newspaper was owned by the then Rupert Murdoch, a Lord Northcliff. Germans were portrayed as wild Huns. While German newspapers claimed that the French and English were godless and that they did not celebrate Christmas.

The farther from the trenches, the greater the hatred.

In fact, the Christmas Peace of 1914 is not a unique case. Similar incidents occurred during the Spanish Civil War, the Boer War, the American Civil War, the Crimean War, and the Napoleonic War. Nowhere was it so extensive and so sudden as at Christmas 1914 in Flanders. 

The "ceasefire" in Christmas 1914 was for long a time treated as a myth. Only in a BBC documentary in 1981 "Peace in No Man's Land", did it become clear that hundreds of thousands had laid down their arms. This occurred not only along British lines, but also along Belgian and French.

Have one learned anything from history?

How to end the war in Colombia, which has been going on for 50 years? The assignment went to an advertising agency. They interviewed prisoners of war and young men and women who had deserted. The youngest who had been kidnapped wanted to go home to their mother. Everyone wanted to meet family and friends especially for Christmas. Everyone was ordinary people like you and me.

After a long period of planning, Christmas lights and not flyers with propaganda, were dropped from helicopters over the jungle. Later it was found out how the FARC guerrillas moved out in the terrain. There they placed Christmas trees with motion sensors and light posters where it was written: "You can come home". "Demobilize". "At Christmas, anything is possible."

Within a month, 331 had given up fighting. Christmas lights are a lot cheaper than bombs and grenades. Juan Manuel Santos Calderón was the Minister of Defense who engaged the advertising agency. He later served as President of Colombia. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016 for his "persistent efforts to end the more than 50-year-long civil war in the country." 

Knowledge of history could have saved a lot of money that went to the advertising agency. Still, it would have taken time. At first there was great mistrust between the parties and it was difficult to forgive each other. Once again, it was the people closest to the acts of violence who extended a hand first. Then friendship grew up through the ranks of it also included captains, majors and colonels.

We do not celebrate Christmas in the Nordics because a god was born for approx. 2020 years ago, but because the Earth's axis tilts approx. 23 degrees, so we get winter annually. We do not need St. Nicholas, as Nissen followed us into modernity.

In Norway, we have had 75 years of Yule celebrations in peacetime. Can we manage a different Jul now in the corona era? Yes, we can.

Good Jul and Happy New Year