How World War I temporarily ended, one night in December 1914, as soldiers, enemies and allies, were going to celebrate Christmas, which ironically, did not subsequently end the war itself.
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As Christmas approached the festive mood and the desire for a lull in the fighting increased as parcels packed with goodies from home started to arrive. On top of this came gifts care of the state. Tommy received plum puddings and ‘Princess Mary boxes’; a metal case engraved with an outline of George V’s daughter and filled with chocolates and butterscotch, cigarettes and tobacco, a picture card of Princess Mary and a facsimile of George V’s greeting to the troops. ‘May God protect you and bring you safe home,’ it said.
Not to be outdone, Fritz received a present from the Kaiser, the Kaiserliche, a large meerschaum pipe for the troops and a box of cigars for NCOs and officers. Towns, villages and cities, and numerous support associations on both sides also flooded the front with gifts of food, warm clothes and letters of thanks.
Christmas, in an essay by Christopher Hitchens, despite his flaming atheism, is not ‘as simple, and dead-boring, as writing compulsory confessional drools to families and friends and listening to the same songs and music elsewhere’. The real meaning, he asserts, is much deeper than what people always perceive.
Warning: this might not be a suitable article for everyone.
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In their already discrepant accounts of the miraculous birth, the four gospels give us no clue as to what time of year—or even what year—it is supposed to have taken place. And thus the iconography of Christmas is ridiculously mixed in with reindeer, holly, snow scenes and other phenomena peculiar to northern European myth. (Three words for those who want to put the Christ back in Christmas: Jingle Bell Rock.) There used to be an urban legend about a Japanese department store that tried too hard to symbolize the Christmas spirit, and to show itself accessible to Western visitors, by mounting a display of a Santa Claus figure nailed to a cross. Unfounded as it turned out, this wouldn’t have been off by much.
You would have to be religiously observant and austere yourself, then, to really seek a ban on Christmas. But it can be almost as objectionable to be made to take part in something as to be forbidden to do so. The reason for the success of the Lehrer song is that it so perfectly captures the sense of irritated, bored resignation that descends on so many of us at this time of year. By “this time of year,” I mean something that starts no later than Thanksgiving (and often sooner) and pervades the entire atmosphere until Dec. 25.
Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. – Calvin Coolidge