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    Friday, March 01, 2024

    The Good Old Days: Christmas Miracle in time of war is an eternal lesson for all

    The WWI helmet of Army veteran Gustave O. Lorentz, from Bozrah, who recalled miracle Christmas Truce in 1914 between the German and British soldiers on the front lines. Photo submitted

    It was 1965, Christmas Eve in Bozrah. The smell of baccala frying in olive oil is holding my family hostage as my Italian mother allocates the Christmas duties. Despite the possible repercussions, I was about to slip out the door to visit the elderly neighbors, Anna and Gustave Lorentz, when my mother waved a wooden spoon in my direction.

    “Don’t stay too long, Connie Mary. It is Vigilia di Natale, Christmas Eve.”

    The era in which my sister and I lived came with many blessings. One such blessing was the good neighbor who watched over every neighboring child, creating a safety net unique to the mid-1900s. It was a time when family and neighbor blended as one. A unique time in history so few will ever know again.

    Gus, being a World War I veteran, loved telling the story of The Christmas Truce of 1914. This story, true events, tells of a miracle that happened when British and German soldiers were fighting in the trenches on the Western Front from the English Channel to the Swiss border.

    It wasn't called "No Man's Land" for nothing.

    In the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve, the trenches were littered with bodies. In 1914, it was a different kind of war. A war of arm-to-arm combat, poisonous gas and deep trenches that, for many, became an early grave.

    My friend Gus — who is no longer with us — believed so. His words still ring true.

    “Christmas Eve brought a heavy frost over the war-torn fields. A strange silence overcame the trenches as lights shone in the distance. No one would have believed the lights were coming from Christmas trees lit with candles that German soldiers risked their lives to carry onto the field.

    There were more acts of bravery by soldiers who waged peace amongst war.

    Alfred Kornitzke, a civilian pastry cook from Berlin, was fired upon while making marzipan balls in a German trench. Despite the danger, he ran with a Christmas tree directly into enemy lines, stopping to light the tree's candles.

    The British stared in disbelief as a German soldier sang in a haunting, baritone voice, “Stille Nacht, Heilage Nacht.”

    An informal truce broke out across the front lines. Men who had been shooting at each other now shared photographs, tobacco, chocolate and beer. They played soccer and took time to bury the dead.

    Soldiers wrote home about this amazing miracle, and despite military efforts to deny its existence — the truth lives on as bright and strong as the Christmas spirit itself.

    Gus ended his story with a message from the heart. It was at that moment that his wife Anna, who was quietly knitting in her chair, looked up and smiled at him with pride.

    “May this be a lesson to you, my young friend. Remember, man's ability to hate is strong, but his ability to love is far stronger.”

    Is there a message in the Christmas Truce concerning peace that we, in 2023 can utilize and apply today? My friend Gus, who died in 1964, expressed his commitment to peace in his words.

    “At the end of every rifle is another human being fighting for his country, his family, his honor. When you put down your rifle, you learn that your enemy is not so different from you.”

    Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, may there be peace on earth!

    Concetta Falcone-Codding is a 1971 graduate of the Norwich Free Academy and is the author of “The Lonely Nest.” You can contact: concettafalconecodding1@gmail.com.

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