It really happened!
At Christmas, 1914, there occurred several informal truces at various points along the trench-lines of Northern France and Belgium. It may well be that there were other places where truces took place, but our precise knowledge of events is limited by the amount of direct, eyewitness testimony which has so far been discovered. Nevertheless, there are enough trustworthy reports (and even a few photographs) to convince us that something extraordinary happened that first Christmas of the war, and that it was not entirely an isolated happening.
The image of opposing soldiers, shaking hands with each other on one day and then deliberately trying to kill each other the next, is a powerful one, and one which is part and parcel of remembrance of the Great War. It was, perhaps, a last example of open-handed chivalry before the squalor and horror of the next three years changed the old world for ever. Source: http://www.fylde.demon.co.uk/xmas.htm
The Christmas truce of 1914 really happened. It is as much a part of the historical texture of World War I as the gas clouds of Ypres or the Battle of the Somme or the Armistice of 1918. Yet it has often been dismissed as though it were merely a myth. Or, assuming anything of the kind occurred, it has been seen as a minor incident, blown up out of all proportion, natural fodder for sentimentalists and pacifists of later generations.
But the truce did take place, and on some far greater scale than has been generally realised. Enemy really did meet enemy between the trenches. There was for a time, genuine peace in No Man's Land. Though Germans and British were the main participants, French and Belgians took part as well. Most of those involved agreed it was a remarkable way to spend Christmas. "Just you think," wrote one British soldier, "that while you were eating your turkey, etc, I was out talking and shaking hands with the very men I had been trying to kill a few hours before! It was astounding!"
"It was a day of peace in war," commented a German participant, "It is only a pity that it was not decisive peace."
So the Christmas Truce is no legend. It is not surprising, however, given the standard popular perception of World War I, that this supreme instance of "All Quiet on the Western Front" has come to have something of a legendary quality. People who would normally dismiss that far off conflict of their grandfathers in the century's teens as merely incomprehensible, find reassurance, even a kind of hope, in the Christmas truce.
This was not, however, a unique occurrence in the history of war. Though it surprised people at the time - and continues to do so today - it was a resurgence of a long established tradition. Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/special_report/1998/10/98/world_war_i/197627.stm
The above souvenir sheet was issued on 25th of December 2003. It was printed by the Courvoisier SNA printing office in Ciudad de Leon. The print run is of 10,000 pieces, numbered on the verso. Please click on the sheet for a bigger image.
Suggestion for a souvenir sheet came from: Alan Payne. Link to the image of the German soldier with a Christmas tree provided by Rodney. Both are RCSD participants.