Newsletter December 4, 2023

Monday Morning Coffee 12.4.23

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), multiple offers “are still occurring, especially on starter and mid-priced homes.” Yet sales of existing homes fell 4.1% in October due to “the persistent lack of housing inventory.”

But inventory is rising, and sales should too. An online real estate database reports active listings rose last month, while signed contracts hit the highest level in a year, so sales should gain when those contracts close.

Meanwhile, sellers remain in a good position. The NAR notes, “home sellers have done well…. A typical homeowner has accumulated more than $100,000 in housing wealth over the past three years.”

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ~ Norman Vincent Peale

On a crisp, clear morning just over 100 years ago, thousands of British, Belgian and French soldiers put down their rifles, stepped out of their trenches and spent Christmas mingling with their German enemies along the Western front.

In the hundred years since, the event has been seen as a kind of miracle, a rare moment of peace just a few months into a war that would eventually claim over 15 million lives.

When Pope Benedict XV took office that September and called for a Christmas truce, the idea was officially rejected.

Yet it seems the sheer misery of daily life in the cold, wet, dull trenches was enough to motivate troops to initiate the truce on their own.

About 100,000 people — are believed to have participated in the legendary truce.

Most accounts suggest the truce began with carol singing from the trenches on Christmas Eve, “a beautiful moonlit night, frost on the ground, white almost everywhere”, as Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade described it:

“First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing ­– two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.”

The next morning, in some places, German soldiers emerged from their trenches, calling out “Merry Christmas” in English. Allied soldiers came out warily to greet them.

In others, Germans held up signs reading “You no shoot, we no shoot.” Over the course of the day, troops exchanged gifts of cigarettes, food, buttons and hats.

The Christmas truce also allowed both sides to finally bury their dead comrades, whose bodies had lain for weeks on “no man’s land,” the ground between opposing trenches.

The phenomenon took different forms across the Western front. One account mentions a British soldier having his hair cut by his pre-war German barber; another talks of a pig-roast. Several mention impromptu kick-abouts with makeshift soccer balls.

And of course, it was only ever a truce, not peace. Hostilities returned, in some places later that day and in others not until after New Year’s Day.

“I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence,” one veteran from the Fifth Battalion, Alfred Anderson, later recalled. “It was a short peace in a terrible war.” As the Great War resumed, it wreaked such destruction and devastation that soldiers became hardened to the brutality of the war.

While there were occasional moments of peace throughout the rest of World War I, they never again came on the scale of the Christmas truce in 1914.

One British soldier, Murdoch M. Wood, speaking in 1930, recalled “I then came to the conclusion that I have held very firmly ever since, that if we had been left to ourselves there would never have been another shot fired.”

Still, a century later, the truce has been remembered as a testament to the power of hope and humanity in a truly dark hour of history.

It has been immortalized and fictionalized in children’s books like Michael Foreman’s War Game, and in films such as Joyeux Noel and Oh, What a Lovely War!

To mark the centenary in 2014, Prince William unveiled a memorial: a metal frame representing a soccer ball, with two hands clasped inside it. Inspired by the events of the truce, the German and British troops played a friendly soccer match.

And though the Christmas Truce may not have been the only one of its kind in the midst conflict, the fact that it remains so widely commemorated speaks to the fact that at its heart it symbolizes a very human desire for peace, no matter how fleeting.

Cindy Glynn
Coldwell Banker American Home