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Profs and Pints presents: "The Christmas Truce of 1914," with Mark Facknitz, professor emeritus of English at James Madison University and member of the World War I Centennial Commission's historical advisory board. (Tickets $10)
By the winter of 1914 it had become clear that "the Great War," underway since that July, would not end quickly or easily for anyone involved. But on Christmas Eve, the ruthless guns of the Western Front fell silent, and the British troops heard a much more comforting sound: strains of "Stille Nacht," or Silent Night, rising from the trenches of their German enemies. Soon candles appeared in fir trees and the Brits replied with carols of their own. By morning both sides were crossing No Man's Land to pass bottles, exchange gifts of chocolate and cigarettes, and hold a soccer match.
In film and in television commercials, the event is represented of a moment of transcendent humanity and a bright respite in the midst of slaughter--the sort of occurrence that one of the war's preeminent poets, Wilfred Owen, had in mind when he wrote "I, too, saw God through mud." The truth is a lot more complicated. Professor Facknitz will explore memories and myths connected with the famous incident and the questions they raise about the use of history in our own perilous times. It's a talk that just might help bring peace on earth, goodwill to man.