Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay,
From now on,
our troubles will be miles away.
Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.
Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself A merry little Christmas now.
-- Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, sung by Judy Garland in 1943, at the height of World War II.
Christmas truce in No Man's Land, 1914.
The Christmas truce is a term used to describe . . . that between British and German troops stationed along the Western Front during Christmas 1914 . . . The . . . truce began on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1914, when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium, for Christmas. They began by placing candles on trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols, most notably Stille Nacht (Silent Night). The British troops in the trenches across from them responded by singing English carols. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were calls for visits across the "No Man's Land" where small gifts, were exchanged, such as whisky, jam, cigarettes, and chocolate. The artillery in the region fell silent that night. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently-fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Proper burials took place as soldiers from both sides mourned the dead together and paid their respects. In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night, but in some areas, it continued until New Year's Day. The truce occurred in spite of opposition at higher levels of the military. . . British commanders Sir John French and Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien vowed that no such truce would be allowed again, although both had left command before Christmas 1915. In all of the following years of the war, artillery bombardments were ordered on Christmas Eve to try to ensure that there were no further lulls in the combat. Troops were also rotated through various sectors of the front to prevent them from becoming overly familiar with the enemy. -- Wikipedia.
Yesterday I sat in a Ruby Tuesdays restaurant in Trussville, Alabama, while having lunch with my daughters at the eatery of their choice and eavesdropped on the conversations at surrounding tables. It is impolite, I know, but I couldn't help but note the subdued and serious talk of folks from all walks of life. This, it would seem, is not a very merry Christmas for many people. At one, two friends, one apparently a cop, the other a soldier, talked of guns, ammunition and increasing crime. At the one on my right, a black couple talked quietly in encoded generalities of increasing economic pressures (one of them had lost their job, but I couldn't quite make out which) so as not to worry their young children, who were in any case preoccupied with their little play toys. They too, it seemed, had recently lost a friend in another city to a deadly home invasion.
Across the way, a middle-aged businessman spoke of liquidating his 401K and other retirement savings to buy real property with it -- ANY real property, he said -- in advance of what he predicted would be this coming year's hyperinflation, "because the goddam government is running the goddam printing presses."
There is a sense abroad in the land that it only gets worse from here -- that, whatever 2010 brings is going to be far worse than most of us have seen in our sheltered, generally prosperous, safe and happy lives.
So it was, idly listening to the ill-at-ease express their sober concerns, so in contradiction with both the miracle of the Christ child and the happy ending of a Dickens' Christmas Carol, that I found my own forebodings validated by the impromptu and anecdotal opinion poll.
2010 will be a watershed year. Whether it is to be a 1775, an 1861, or merely a 1968 remains to be seen. I thought of this, and the 1914 Christmas truce, as my girls critiqued what they felt was the declining quality of the Ruby Tuesdays' salad bar.
In 1914, the two sides celebrated Christmas because they shared common Christian values. The holiday was in keeping with their deepest held beliefs and juxtaposed their longing for the peace of the season against the horror and misery of war.
Yet what, if anything, do we share with these people who seek to take our property and liberty? Modern American collectivists can't sing a bar of Christmas carols they never learned. Can there ever be a truce with such people who represent, at most, merely an appetite for other people's liberty, an over-whelming compulsion to tell the rest of us what to do, where to go, how to act and how much to pay for the privilege? In truth, they do not worship God but government. What truce, however temporary, can be called with such people who have never called a truce in their own assaults on our God-given rights? I think that this coming struggle, the one that decides who we are as a people -- free or slave -- will be fought as "war to the knife and knife to the hilt." There will be no Christmas truces in the next American civil war.
Christmas in Bastogne, 1944.
From there my mind flitted to another Christmas Eve, in 1944, and to Americans struggling desperately in European snows against the foot soldiers of a monstrous regime. I thought of the men of the 101st Airborne hemmed in at Bastogne -- "they got us surrounded, the poor bastards." And I thought of the All American trooper on the Elsenborn ridge, with the Germans maneuvering in plain sight below in over-whelming force, declaring, "Well, I'm the 82nd Airborne and this is as far as the bastards are going to get." I thought of Eric Fisher Wood, alone, cut-off, but still fighting his one man war against the Nazi rear echelons. The Germans sang "Stille Nacht" that Christmas, even though we later learned what a horrific lie that represented when we overran the camps. Only then did we discover how little in common we had with the German collectivist herd men.
Washington crossing the Delaware, om his way to kill German mercenaries at Christmas, 1776.
Then I wandered back to another time when Americans, not yet fully considering themselves as such, fought Germans in the snow, as Washington, gambling everything on one desperate throw of the dice, attacked the Hessian mercenaries of King George III at Trenton.
Chapter 32 of Absolved, which I will post later today or tomorrow as my ironic Christmas present to you Irregulars, also juxtaposes war's killing against a backdrop of this sacred Christian holiday.
I wish the world were not so, but it is.
We can only answer for our own conduct at such times. So take some time to be with your family and friends, celebrate the miracle of Christ's birth, and try not to ponder too much on the evil that 2010 portends. There will be plenty of time for that.
It may well be that these are the last moments of peace and prosperity we will know for a long time to come. Treasure them, and each other.
Have a blessed Christmas, and don't forget to thank God for the privilege.