Christmas 1914, And After
Sentimentality about Christmas in Britain is a Victorian legacy that owes much to the influence of Germany. The sense of outrage in December, 1914, at encountering a Christmas tarnished by the ugliness of war was common to both countries, as dramatically demonstrated on the Western Front and examined here by John Terraine.
Wars of religion - like civil wars - are commonly considered to be the most merciless, the most cruel, the most destructive. Divine sanction or divine instruction has generally tended to increase this savagery, casting a holy glow over what might otherwise be looked on simply as barbaric deeds. Where religious war has taken on the character of a civil war as well - in the rise or suppression of heresies - the cruelty increases accordingly. Yet the notion persists that Christianity at any rate (despite the record) is somehow incompatible with war, and the central Christian feast, the official birthday of Christ himself, Christmas Day, enshrining the concepts of Peace on Earth and Goodwill among Men, seems particularly offended by the context of war.
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