Yesterday was the winter solstice and on this year it coincided with a lunar eclipse at midnight December 21st—at least on the west coast of North America.  Whatever this portends, as we approach Christmas I thought maybe we might dedicate this post to unity.  And in the spirit of unity—a story harking back 96 years…

World War One commenced in August of 1914 and by December 23rd the war was mired down in abject horror and misery; trenches of the British stood sixty yards from trenches of the Germans.  Rats, death and hardening mud were mainly what soldiers on both sides stood to get for Christmas.

Battered troops on both sides of the equation were losing their mojo for fighting and a live-and-let-live spirit was arising out of the broken lethargy, worrying British High Command (who hung out 27 miles away from the trenches in a chateau).  Suddenly, little candle-lit Christmas trees appeared along the crest of the German trenches against the darkening sky.

The Generals were disgusted but unable to stop it as the officers at the front lines worked out a truce:  Christmas Eve and Christmas Day would be no fighting.  Soldiers on both sides buried their dead, but they also sang Christmas songs in their respective languages and shared their meager presents from on high—tobacco and some cakes.  There was a legendary soccer game with caps for goal posts.

As Christmas ended, the officers on each side fired a couple of shots into the air and the war started up again.

I learned about the Christmas truce from my aunt and uncle.  It turns out that my mom’s father had been conscripted into the German army, even though he was a Jew living in Austria-Hungary.  He was in the German trench that Christmas of 1914.

Meanwhile, my aunt’s father was a British soldier and he was hunkered down in the facing trench.

On the 26th of December 1914, when the war started up again, my aunt’s dad got a bayonet to the lung.  My own grandfather got mustard gassed and this wrecked his lungs too.

My aunt’s dad was sent to Italy to recover (I picture A Farewell To Arms) where he contracted tuberculosis.  After the war he was sent to Arizona, to a sanatorium to recover from the TB he got in Italy.  There he met a nurse who was also recovering from TB; they fell in love and my aunt Bronwen is the product of this love.

Meanwhile, my grandfather made it to New York and worked as a furrier but, with bad lungs, was told to get out of the city and so he moved to South Bend Indiana.  He died in the forties, after learning that all his ten brothers and sisters had been killed by the very Germans he had fought for.  My uncle changed his name from Herb to Rick and headed out to sunny southern California.

There he met Bronwen and when they shared the stories of their dads, they realized that both of their fathers had been on opposite sides of the Christmas truce (one of the only stories about the war that they had ever told their children).

Despite my Buby’s horror (Bronwen was not Jewish), they fell madly in love and live happily every after to this very Christmas.

I heard this story one Thanksgiving as a lovely baritone richly filled the air in the background of my aunt’s kitchen—it was her father, who had sang at the Hollywood Bowl (amongst other venerable venues)—a great career stopped by neither a bayonet to the lung nor by TB.

My aunt started to tell stories about growing up in Hollywood, and then being horrified when her dad bought a ramshackle chicken farm in the San Fernando Valley and moved the family to the then remote boonies.  When I asked what street she lived on I learned that the old farm in the middle of nowhere turned out to have been located… less than two blocks from where I live now.

Crossing paths, perceived divisions, new connections, synchronicities, widening understandings of family and fellowship… consider the rich, varied and mysterious ways in which we all live and love in a common and universal puzzle of consciousness, the trick more in awakening to it as it already is than in trying to bring it about.

Much as Rumi suggests that out beyond right and wrong there is a field, and he offers to meet us there, that field exists wherever peace rises up rather than war of any stripe—between two trenches, between spouses, between old enemies, between children on the world’s playground.

Thus in the dark, and yet light-bringing, days of this Holiday Season (at least wintry in our northern hemisphere while friends and family in the other hemisphere celebrate the pinnacle of summer) let’s wish love and good cheer to each other, and to all our collective children.

Namaste, Peace & Merry Christmas, Bruce, Andy, Nate & Will


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10 Responses to “Truce”

  1. rebecca @ altared spaces Says:

    You lay this story out very artfully. Because when you get the the part, “between two trenches, two spouces, … kids on the playground…” yes. I feel it. I feel how easy it is to call a truce.

    And how difficult.

    And how easy.

    It’s all about finding that field beyond.

  2. Mark Says:

    Nice wings, Bruce. Very useful for transcending. A portent of things to come? 😉 Best, Mark

  3. pamela Says:


    This post took my breath away. I too have so many stories of synchronicity and coincidence although none quite as grand as yours. Your story should be made into a novel!!! Thank you for reminding me of connection.

    Wishing you more magic,

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      HI Pam, This story is a shard of OUR collective story. WE are the novel, the magic and you must see that your synchronicities and deeply private magic are threads in a vast tapestry in which no one person or particular story is more or less important. The Buddhists say that “comparison is odious,” I think that’s a bit judgmental, but it offers us the possibility of discrimination of thought rather than judgment about less and more, good and bad. Our human history is marked by escalating moments of confrontation of Self: World Wars, Killing Fields, growing awareness of connection and synchronicity. Trust your magic, trust our collective unity, trust that each of us who make a truce within ourselves stop the war between ourselves—the war of not-yet-consciousness that we are one. Sorry for the long response, when I really understand this better I will be able to say it with less words… and then without words (and there is the real magic :)). Namaste

  4. Kristen @ Motherese Says:

    I always loved telling my students the story of the Christmas Truce back when I was in the trenches teaching high school history. I really appreciate how you connected it to your aunt and uncle’s lives. The lesson I’ll take with me today is about the opportunities we create when we continue to tell our own stories – the possibility for connection and for understanding.

    Wishing you, Andy, and the boys a very happy holiday and a new year filled with peace, joy, and love.

  5. rudrip Says:

    Bruce, I really love the way you told this story about unity. We talk about unification and truce in the abstract, but this story gave texture to those words. Thanks for sharing. Here’s wishing you and yours peace during and after the holiday season.

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