It was like living in a war zone.
But, on Christmas Day, something magical happened.
All five of us kids would barrel down the stairs, like the Bulls being released onto the streets in Spain, and we’d simultaneously tear into our piles of presents.
Sweaters (ugh), socks (ugh), Monopoly board game (yay!), hot-wheels race-track (double yay!!), Rock-em- Sock-em Robots (triple yay!!!).
After the wrapping paper was picked up off the floor, we’d start playing with our new games and with each other.
The petty battles from the day before were long forgotten.
I didn’t know it then, but I certainly know it now. The greatest gift on Christmas wasn’t about the new toys.
This holiday, on the plane ride to Miami to visit my husband’s family, I read an article in National Geographic that reminded me about this.
“In December 1914 invading German troops and the defending Allies were dug in along battle lines in Belgium and France. From sodden trenches soldiers shot at each other across a no-man’s land strewn with injured and dead comrades. But on December 24th, at points along that western front, Germans placed lighted trees on trench parapets and the Allies joined them in an impromptu peace: the Christmas truce of World War 1, a hundred years ago this month. “
Historians recounted that after the troops promised to stop shooting, they began serenading each other with Christmas Carols. They walked across the battlefield to meet, shake hands and smoke cigarettes with their “enemies.”
On Christmas day, they kept the peace and came out to dig graves and hold memorials for their dead. They shared food, posed for photographs, traded uniform buttons, and competed in soccer games.
The camaraderie between the Belgium, German and British troops lasted almost an entire week!
In letters sent home to their families, the soldiers wrote that no one wanted to continue the war. But as the New Year began, higher ranking officials made sure they got back to the business of fighting.
The message was clear, even in the war zone, peace was the preferred state of being.
The Spirit of Christmas is the greatest gift we can give or receive; it’s peace on earth, good will towards men (women, too).
Even if it’s only for one day, or one week.
Extend peace to someone in your community that you have been in conflict with and celebrate, or play with them instead.
This could be the most memorable gift you can give someone.
I know I have some “brotherly love” phone calls to make on Christmas. How about you?
Wishing you and your family a peaceful, loving and joyous holiday season.
 National Geographic Magazine, Patricia Edmonds, pg.22, December 2014, “The Christmas Truce.”