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Here is an unusual picture of German soldiers in a trench in 1914 taking time out from killing and being killed to decorate a thread bare Charlie Brown Christmas tree with some tinsel and other xmas decorations.

What I find interesting is the symbolism, probably lost on these soldiers, of what they are doing. There is something very ironic about the scene of these warriors taking time to celebrate the King of Peace in a war zone. In fact, peace and goodwill to one’s fellow man are in short supply here. Even while some of the soldiers decorate the tree, the others have to stand guard, scanning the approaches to the trenches, ready to kill any French or British soldiers they might see.

Zooming in on the Christmas tree, we can see that it is a sorry looking thing adorned with just a few strands of tinsel. The men are no doubt trying to find a little respite from the horrors of war by decorating the tree, as a reminder of the comforts of home and Christmases before the War. But I find that there is also an intended connection between this Christmas tree, really a dead tree, and the blasted landscape around the trenches. Dead trees and vineyards can be seen in the background and in front of the trenches. Just as these men have cut down the Christmas tree, they have felled the natural life of the land, rendering it bleak and ruined. In the course of the war, millions of acres of farmland in France and Belgium would be destroyed and scarred by trenches and shell craters.

Above is a closeup of the men at the bottom of the trench as they take out their precious Christmas decorations from a box.

Even at Christmas time death and danger are ever present companions. While some of their comrades decorate the tree, the rest of the soldiers in the trench must stand guard, their rifles ready to shoot at any enemy soldier that they spot. The physical signs and decorations of Christmas were to be found in this trench but the true spirit of Christmas had been overshadowed by the din of artillery. I wonder how many of these men lived to celebrate any more Christmases.