Europe, 1914. Trenches scar the earth from Belgium through France and down into Switzerland. The Great War has been roiling on for months, much longer than the soldiers were told it would. It’s sleet and frozen, and there’s mist in the air. Everyone is miserable and cold. But come the evening of December 24, the bombing stops as the front becomes unnervingly quiet. Across the barbed wire fencing, the British soldiers see some candles on small Christmas trees along the German trenches.

Then they hear the singing. “Silent Night.” 

The Wall Street Journal writes: “What appears from the winter fog and misery is a Christmas story, a fine Christmas story that is, in truth, the most faded and tattered of adjectives: inspiring.”

Soldiers timidly emerge from their respective trenches and meet in the middle. They shake hands, trade presents, bury the dead, make halting conversation (some of the Germans had worked in Britain), and cut each other’s hair. Then they play a game of soccer. 

It’s an evocative image—opposition soldiers kicking a ball in no man’s land—one that’s become the setting for children’s novels, movies, and an ad for a British supermarket.