The McLane Carillon in Pat Neff Hall Tower will ring out “Silent Night” at 19:14 p.m. on Christmas Eve 2014 to commemorate the Christmas Truce between the German, British, Belgian, and French soldiers on the Western Front in World War I. Baylor University thus joins seventy-eight participants in eleven countries to celebrate and remember the one hundredth anniversary of this action of peace. Sixteen of the participants are in the United States.
On Christmas Eve 1914, as darkness descended upon a brutal landscape of trenches and barbed wire, the sound of carols rising from the German lines prompted curious British, Belgian and French soldiers to raise their heads above the parapet. In the distance, they could see the glow of candles on small Christmas trees. Germans were also seen peering back. No shots were fired. Some soldiers raised their heads higher, and the men exchanged salutations. Enemies inched closer and eventually met. They shook hands, agreeing a truce for the following day.
They met again on Christmas morning, holding joint religious services and helping to bury each other’s dead. Throughout the day, they shared tea and coffee, wine, beer and cognac, chocolate and food sent from home. They swapped cap badges and buttons, showed one another photographs of their families and loved ones. They even posed for photographs. They played soccer and had bicycle races. British historian Piers Brendon called it “the most extraordinary celebration of Christmas since those notable goings-on in Bethlehem.”
To recall this remarkable moment of hope and humanity, a worldwide carillon concert will be staged, beginning on the Peace Carillon of Messines, Belgium. Messines was at the heart of the 1914 Christmas Truce and increasingly is being recognized as the City of the Christmas Truce. Messines Peace Carillon is a collection of bells, donated from all over the world, peeling for Peace every day, and is due to undergo a major refurbishment during the next four years.
Don Mullan, Irish author and Associate Chair of UNESCO’s Global Youth Program, is the originator of the Christmas Truce Commemoration. He presented the idea of the Christmas Truce Commemoration last summer at the 2014 Congress of the World Carillon Federation in Antwerp, Flanders.