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Merry Christmas 2010

We had a truce on Xmas Day and our German friends were quite friendly. They came over to see us and we traded bully beef for cigars. Xmas was "tray bon" which means very good.

If you've been reading this site for a long time -- and there's maybe 100 or so of you -- you know that I love Christmas, because of its meaning to me as a Christian and the generosity of spirit the holiday represents.

The quote above is from a recently discovered letter, by a Canadian soldier, proving that Christmas truces still occurred on the Western front of World War I after 1914. And that's significant, because the existence of those truces after the well-known 1914 events and particularly after 1915 has been contested.

The truces after 1914 are in some ways more notable and braver, because soldiers were under direct orders not to make peace again after the earlier ceasefires were reported to superiors. But the officers and commanders who called for an end to the peaceful moments found out, in some sort of grimmer version of How the Grich Stole Christmas, that it's a lot harder to stop Christmas than simply trying to make people forget about it.

It's not clear if Ronald MacKinnon's truce involved soccer or other sports, as some of the earlier truces did. But even if it was only those earlier ceasefires that involved matches, it still shows something about the power of sports to bring people together, and stands as an answer to those who question whether "games" really mean anything to humanity. Sometimes, they're the only signs of humanity that remain when the world has gone mad.

And the world was already mad when Ronald MacKinnon wrote his Christmas letter. One of the reasons that we don't know if MacKinnon's truce included sports was because no one ever got a chance to ask him; he died four months later at the age of 23.

But he left us a reminder of the true spirit of Christmas and its ability to defeat the forces of hatred and chaos. In the long run, that's not a bad legacy at all.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!