The Christmas Truce
"This piece is inspired by the true Christmas Truce that happened during World War One from the 24th to the 26th of December."
25 December, 1914
Freedom. Air, men, even land. Everything and everyone seemed free in that moment, the anger and fear against the enemy abandoned in the foxholes. It felt like being children again, running on the iced soil until we were all breathless, with smiles on our faces and hot sweat dripping on our skin, making us shiver with excitement as if feverish. The air was impregnated by the feeble smoke of the bonfires where my comrades were roasting some piece of meat under the careful sight of Frans, who later told me he’d studied to become a chef. Björn and Thomas, the barbers, were helping some soldiers to cut their hair, while the others were playing cards, exchanging photos and sharing stale biscuits.
Meanwhile, in the football field, I was playing the most magical match of my whole life. My boots were slippery and encrusted with mud and blood, like my jacket, my trousers, and my whole body. We were all covered by a thick layer of dirt, our identical faces looking severely at each other, studying the opponents’ movements. Our bodies felt fast and light as wind without our heavy coats and helmets on. I had given mine to Paul 'cause I didn’t want to lose it while my rifle was in the trench, leaning on the frozen soil like everyone else’s. Running on the field, trying to catch the ball, screaming and laughing like a group of friends was a sensation I didn’t think I would have ever experienced during a war. It might sound odd, but I hadn't remembered how good it felt to run by choice, and not for the fear of being killed. I thought this while standing there, hands on my hips like a heroic figure and my right foot steady on the ball of rags, ready to do a penalty shot. My eyes wandered around, on my comrades’ faces, on my enemies’ ones, and once again I wasn’t able to recall who was on which side, except for the color of the waistband that distinguished the German team from the British one: Eagles against Lions. We played for three, maybe four hours and we stayed on No Man’s Land for the whole day, eating gross food that tasted heavenly and talking about our wives, our jobs, our dreams.
But eventually we had to go back to our positions, waking up abruptly from the sweet dream. I hugged as many as I could, moved by their glooming eyes and trembling smiles, trying to imprint their faces, their voices, and their stories in my mind. Alberich put one of his buttons in my pocket while Hans passed me a little bar of chocolate. Gustav squeezed my hands multiple times and Kurt, one of the youngest, left some tears on my shoulder.
While I was walking back to the trench, with fists inside my pockets and furious tears in the corners of my eyes, the only thing I wanted was to tear apart my uniform, throw away my rifle and sit there, in No Man’s Land, to end this awful War.
And I wished everyone did the same.
But my legs continued to move to the foxhole, my hands tightened around my weapon and my helmet pushed my gaze down. Before disappearing into the trench I turned around one last time, hoping to see them all standing there in civilian clothes, unharmed and smiling. But this was not a dream. The last thing I can remember of that special day was the robust body of Linus, waving his hand one more time and wishing us “Fröhliche Weihnachten."