Editor's Note: this article was originally published in 2007 on the now-defunct Boardgamenews.com website.
World War I was entering its first winter, as soldiers from both sides
huddled together in the muddy trenches that lined the western front through
Belgium and France. The “No Man’s Land” between them was already filled with
bodies of the fallen, soon to be frozen because it was too dangerous to
retrieve them for a proper burial. But that Christmas, something quite unexpected
happened: the soldiers who had been trained to kill each other suddenly laid
down their weapons…and played games.
I was unaware of this well-documented Christmas truce until a friend gave me
a copy of the 2005 film, ”Joyeux
Noël (Merry Christmas).” The Oscar-nominated cinematic version of the story
is depicted through the eyes of French, British and German soldiers, and is
appropriately presented in three languages. Although it is a romanticized version
of the actual events, its message made it a tradition in our household
alongside some of the better-known holiday film classics.