Oh, the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear,
Like criminals, they have choked the breath of
conscience and good cheer.
The sun beat down upon the steps of time to light the way
To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay.
–Bob Dylan “Every Grain of Sand”
In December, 1914 the First World War had been raging for a few months. German forces had swept across Belgium, Luxembourg and part of France where they were met by allied forces and stopped. Each then tried to outflank the other and kept moving north in what was called the “race to the sea.” Once the battle lines had reached the sea, troops began to dig in and build trench systems to protect themselves from machine guns and artillery. Often there were very short distances between the trench lines, in some cases there were only yards separating them. Sometimes troops would communicate across the lines by shouting at each other, or after a barrage signs would appear reading “missed a bit,” or “more left”.
Life in the trenches was hard; they were often filled with water that was a mix of filth and decomposing bodies. Between the lines was the infamous “no man’s land” strewn with barb wire, and pockmarked with shell holes and littered with corpses of the fallen. These conditions were shared by soldiers of both sides, and there must have a certain amount of sympathy across the lines as a result.
But on on Christmas Eve in 1914 tannenbaum, or Christmas trees decorated with candles began to appear at many points along the German line. Continue reading