'WWI Christmas Miracle' program Dec 12

Trench warfare during World War I was particularly brutal. The Great War encompassed four long years of suffering: of the more than 70 million military personnel mobilized, more than nine million were killed.

But something remarkable happened in 1914, the year war broke out.

In the week leading up to Christmas, candlelit trees began to appear along the German trench lines on the Western Front. The British soldiers could hear “Stille Nacht (Silent Night)” from across the field. The Allies reciprocated. Gradually, up and down the front, an unofficial Christmas Truce broke out.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, December 12, author Rochelle Pennington will present the heartwarming story, World War I Christmas Miracle, at the Fond du Lac Public Library. The program is free; no registration required.

Pennington’s program draws directly from writings left by soldiers who participated in the events of Christmas 1914 after celebrating the great holiday with their enemies. It’s estimated that 100,000 soldiers experienced the unofficial Christmas Truce, which spanned hundreds of miles along the trenches.

Pennington will share vintage photographs, including shots of soldiers exchanging gifts and Christmas trees on the battlefield, and authentic artifacts, including items exchanged by the troops. She’ll also share diary entries, letters home and newspaper articles, including this note from a British soldier:

"I was gazing toward the German lines and thinking what a different sort of Christmas Eve this was … when suddenly lights began to appear along the top of the German trenches. These were Christmas trees which were adorned with lighted candles burning steadily in the still, frosty air! Then suddenly our opponents began to sing ‘Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht.’ They finished their carol, and we thought that we ought to retaliate in the same way, so we sang 'The First Noel,' and when we finished they all began clapping. And so it went on.” – Graham Williams

Pennington, of Kewaskum, has had her work published in several bestselling series, including Chicken Soup for the SoulDon’t Sweat the Small Stuff and Stories for the Heart. She is author and co-author of 10 books, including The Historic Christmas Tree Ship, An Old-Fashioned Christmas, Highlighted in Yellow and Reach for the Stars.


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