War had already been waging in Europe for months when Pope Benedict issued a plea from Rome on Dec. 7, 1914 to leaders of Europe: declare a Christmas truce.
Benedict saw how badly peace was needed, even if it was only for a day. The First Battle of Ypres alone, fought from October 19 to November 22, had resulted in some 200,000 casualties (mostly German and French soldiers, but also thousands of English and Belgians). The First Battle of the Marne was even worse.
In light of this carnage, the pope asked "that the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang."
The European leaders ignored his plea.
Then something miraculous happened on the eve of Christmas. From No Man's Land—the area between the trench works of Allied and Central forces—German troops, in a spontaneous act, put down their weapons and invited English soldiers to celebrate Christmas with them. It's remembered today as the Christmas Truce.
The British cartoonist Bruce Bairnsfather was one of many who chronicled the event. A machine gunner in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, Bairnsfather was shivering in the muck of a three-foot trench on a cold night, munching on stale biscuits and chain-smoking, when he heard a noise at about 10 p.m. Via History: