Can the truce be extended to other days of the year?
On December 24, 1914 – exactly a century and four years ago – a temporary cessation of hostilities between British, Belgian and French soldiers on one side and the German on the other side along the Western front at the heights of World War I has “been remembered as a testament to the power of hope and humanity in a truly dark hour of history.”
According to the Time magazine, most accounts suggest the truce began with carol singing from the trenches on Christmas Eve. A soldier’s poignant description of the event to The New York Times reads:
“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, the Time report added.
“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.”
“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas,” goes a famous quote by the former US President Late Calvin Coolidge.
‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (humans),’ is the beautiful and hopeful message of Christmas according to the Gospel of Luke.
Despite the unsavoury state of affairs, thus, Christmas season is that time of the year when the citizens of Nagaland eagerly look forward to a temporary ‘truce’ from the daily struggles.
As Nagas returns home to spend Christmas with families and friends, collectively trudging on the bumpy roads, they are acutely reminded of the perennial bad roads across the state – it doesn’t matter on what vehicles they are travelling. The roads, the rather of dilapidated kind, are the greatest levellers.
Somewhere, a farmer is struggling with a bad harvest, while others praying earnestly not to fall sick during Christmas when the neglected health centres are most likely to be closed. Yet, other health workers, as well as other professionals particularly in the security forces, will be forsaking home for ‘duties.’ Hopefully, unpaid workers must have been compensated for their services, giving then a temporary solace after struggling for months.
Every Christmas, the Nagas long for a ‘Christmas Gift’ seeking a solution to the protracted political issue, only to enter another year without any outcome – hope dissipates while division accumulates. The lists go on.
Pitted against these familiar unpleasant backdrops, the general dispositions tend to be sombre and wintry.
However, the many traditions and memories, as well as the possibility of creating a new one against the odds, one eagerly awaits celebrating the day with family, friends and others, filled with goodwill and joyful tidings.
Political, economic and social-religious uncertainties apart, the enduring spirit of Christmas prevails during the temporary truce, a welcome break from daily drudgery.
The period also offers a perfect time of self-reflection and resolving for future based on the messages the day bestow upon human beings.
Can the temporary truce be extended to other days of the year? Yes or no, but it takes a collective effort to enable such an outcome. Can the Naga as a society embrace peace, practice magnanimity and re-discover compassion and empathy this Christmas?
“May you feel the true spirit and true meaning of Christmas wrap your hearts, your lives and your families with boundless love and enduring peace.”
Here’s to a blessed and meaningful Christmas and beyond.