My Annual Christmas Eve Post for 2017

For those of you fairly new to And So It Goes, I first discovered John McCutcheon’s song, Christmas in the Trenches, in 2013. It tells an amazing and long forgotten true story, one that I’m committed to sharing. I’ve been posting it every Christmas Eve since.

I hope you’ll take the time to listen to the song and peruse some of the stories that I link to at the end.  Maybe share it with your children and grandchildren, or your friends and neighbors. And at this holiday season, please remember that peace is possible when we choose to make it so.


December 25, 1914

Christmas in the Trenches
written and sung by John McCutcheon in 1989
Lyrics are below.



Christmas in the Trenches

My name is Francis Tolliver. I come from Liverpool.
Two years ago the war was waiting for me after school.
From Belgium and to Flanders, to Germany to here,
I fought for King and country I love dear.

It was Christmas in the trenches where the frost so bitter hung.
The frozen fields of France were still, no songs of peace were sung.
Our families back in England were toasting us that day,
Their brave and glorious lads so far away.

I was lyin’ with me mess-mates on the cold and rocky ground,
When across the lines of battle came a most peculiar sound.
Says I “Now listen up me boys,” each soldier strained to hear
As one young German voice sang out so clear.

“He’s singin’ bloody well you know,” my partner says to me.
Soon one by one each German voice joined in, in harmony.
The cannons rested silent. And the gas cloud rolled no more,
As Christmas brought us respite from the war.

As soon as they were finished, and a reverent pause was spent.
“God rest ye merry, gentlemen” struck up some lads from Kent.
The next they sang was Stille Nacht. “Tis Silent Night,” says I.
And in two tongues one song filled up that sky.

“There’s someone comin’ towards us now,” the front-line sentry cried.
All sights were fixed on one lone figure trudging from their side.
His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shone on the plain so bright,
As he bravely trudged, unarmed, into the night.

Then one by one on either side walked into no-man’s-land.
With neither gun nor bayonet, we met there hand to hand.
We shared some secret brandy and we wished each other well,
And in a flare-lit football game, we gave ’em hell.

We traded chocolates, cigarettes, and photographs from home,
These sons and fathers far away from families of their own.
Tom Sanders played his squeezebox and they had a violin,
This curious and unlikely band of men.

Soon daylight stole upon us and France was France once more.
With sad farewells, we each began to settle back to war.
But the question haunted every heart that lived that wondrous night,
“Whose family have I fixed within my sights?”

Twas Christmas in the trenches where the frost so bitter hung.
The frozen fields of France were warmed as songs of peace were sung.
For the walls they’d kept between us to exact the work of war,
Had been crumbled and were gone forever more.

Oh, my name is Francis Tolliver. In Liverpool I dwell.
Each Christmas come since World War One I’ve learned its lessons well.
For the ones who call the shots won’t be among the dead and lame.
And on each end of the rifle, we’re the same.

— John McCutcheon “Christmas in the trenches”       1989


Here’s the link to an earlier post, which includes background and many links to further information.


May you find peace this holiday season.   And So It Goes will return in the New Year.

10 Responses

  1. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    As I prepared for a Christmas brunch for ten tomorrow, I paused to hear the truth in this powerful, poignant video. Thank you, Janet.

    And Merry Christmas to you, Woody, and the gang!
    Marian Beaman recently posted…You’ve Got Mail: Cliff Writes LettersMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks so much, Marian. And Merry Christmas to you and yours. May the Christmas spirit hang in there through the year.

  2. Betty Sue
    | Reply

    Thank you for posting. So moving, and gives hope that our current wars can find ways to have truce and bring peace.

  3. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    This is a wonderful song. I think I first heard about the Christmas truce when I was a teen–maybe a British movie–and I heard the song years ago, probably on Philadelphia folk station. It’s always good to hear it again.
    Merry Christmas to you and yours, Janet!
    Merril Smith recently posted…Sweet Stars of Christmas: HaibunMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Wow. I’m impressed that you knew the story. XPN? Michaela Mijune? Ah, I do miss Philly now and again, though not in winter: just as cold and not nearly as pretty. But I digress… Thanks for stopping by, Merril. Your fondue looked yummy.
      Janet Givens recently posted…My Annual Christmas Eve Post for 2017My Profile

  4. Sue
    | Reply

    Janet I have so loved this story for many years. Thank you for sharing it and now I am covered in goose bumps and a lump in my throat is difficult to swallow. May peace and kindness rain down on this world. Wishing you much happiness now in this season and the year ahead.

  5. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    I love listening to this song. It’s sad and hopeful at the same time. I had the pleasure of hearing it performed live recently by Idaho folk singer and friend Belinda Bowler. Goosebumps for sure. I hope your Christmas was wonderful, Janet.
    Tim Fearnside recently posted…The Other Men and Women Who Fought and Died for FreedomMy Profile

    • Janet
      | Reply

      Thanks, Tim. I trust yours was equally splendid. I found the chords for the song (hats off to Google) and Woody and I have started to sing it here at home. Goosebumps for sure.

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