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Post 82 plans Christmas Eve candlelight vigil

What is this thing called the Christmas spirit? Is it a living thing that springs to life each Thanksgiving and stays throughout the New Year?

For many of us, that’s an easy question to answer. Yes, of course it lives, and we greet it with open arms each year.

The skeptic would ask though, if it is alive, does it not require nourishment?

If we are not surrounded by friends and family, if we do not have presents, or a Christmas tree, or Santa can we still sustain this holiday visitor? The easy answer is no, but it is never that simple.

Members from American Legion Post 82 will hold a candlelight vigil for a truce in the wars and honor all of those away defending our country at 6 p.m. in front of the Historic Middlesex Courthouse in Saluda on Christmas Eve, December 24. All veterans, family members and anyone else are invited to attend. For more information, contact post commander Keith McAuley at 512-8023.

Spread hope around you this Christmas. Hug and kiss your family, send a gift to a soldier overseas, give blood. The real magic of Christmas is always inside of you. Share the magic of this wonderful time of year!

Christmas Truce of 1914

The “Great War” had been raging for nearly 5 months when Christmas time rolled around. For the soldiers on the front lines, their homes were deep trenches cut into the ground, filled with knee-deep sticky mud. Many soldiers on both sides of the battle lines were covered with it from head to toe.

Soldiers had to keep their heads low, because at all times the enemy snipers were watching, and would shoot at anything that appeared in their scope. The closer to Christmas it got, the more sporadic the rifle fire became, as if on both sides, they were simply ready for a break. On Christmas Eve 1914, the first hard freeze settled over the ground, which was welcomed by the soldiers because at last the mud was solid.

Thoughts of the soldiers turned to their families, tucked away safely in their beds. The soldiers settled down in their bunks with letters from their loved ones, pictures, and if they were lucky, gifts. While the cold air blew in around them, they turned their faces into their coats, and tried to sleep.

In the early morning hours of December 25, a thick mist settled around them. It was hard to see from one side of “No Man’s Land” to the other. Suddenly a chorus of song broke the silence of the morning, and drifted up from the German trenches across the way. The startled Allies were amazed to discover when they peeked their heads up, that the Germans had erected dozens of Christmas trees in their trenches, and placed candles in the end of rifles. They listened in silence as the Germans sang “Silent Night” (“Stille nacht, heilige nacht . . .”)

When the voices concluded and echoed away, applause rang out from the U.S. Allies. The German singing had been lovely. The Allies began a song of their own, and on through the night soldiers from both sides of the battlefield sang together.

When dawn broke, the Germans called out to the Allies, “Come over!” The Allies responded, “You first!” and tentatively, officers from either side walked out over “No Man’s Land,” to greet each other. A ceasefire was called, and soldiers from both sides rose out of their trenches to meet these people whom they had just been trying to kill. Some of the people could communicate with words, but others who did not know the other side’s language made them understood as they gave each other gifts of cigarettes, clothing and food. They shared photographs of their families, and called each other “friend” for the rest of the day. They built bonfires, which glowed well into the night.

Finally, the long dreaded moment had come—time for each side to return to their trenches. The soldiers said goodbye to their new friends, and sank down into their muddy holes. With a heavy heart, the firing began again, and the war continued for four more years.

You may ask, why have I told such a sad story? What good is the Christmas spirit if it only lasts such a short while? I think that it is important to remember that in the midst of all that death and chaos, the Christmas spirit was still able to reach down into the darkest pit and lift the soldiers out. The Christmas spirit has another name—Hope. It needs nothing more to survive on its own than a beating heart, and a song to sing.

posted 12.22.2009

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