In the middle of November, my son, host son and myself took in Christmas 1914 at Fanshawe Village. We had a fantastic time and learned ever so much. As it drawing nearer to Christmas I thought I would tell you all about it! 🙂
Our visit started with a reenactment of the Christmas Truce of 1914. First they walked us through a trench with men telling us about their experiences, the cold, the hunger, the muck and the constant threat surrounding them.
I mentioned to one fellow that it was cold. He said “yes, it is truly miserable”. This portion of the program wasn’t very long but it gave us a glimpse into what it would have been like for these soldiers. Living within all that and then learning to trust the men in the other trenches, at least enough on Christmas to greet each other. A tough call.
After we saw the re-enactment we were able to go around and visit the various buildings which reflected different aspects of World War 1.
Our first stop was at the church were we listened to a girl choir. Some aspects were not period (like the Santa hats and the organ) but that wasn’t completely the point. 🙂 The point was music was still part of that time period and we got to listen to songs about the time period as well.
We sat through part of the program, but the boys were feeling antsy so we headed out to get some hot chocolate and have an impromptu snow ball fight. It was good to see the boys having fun together (until they ganged up on me). I ran quickly into the building with the hot chocolate. 🙂
The lady working this house helped us to understand how the French boys and the boys from other countries were treated.
Once done here we headed back to finish listening to the girls choir. They did an excellent job. I wish I had the recording from Christmas in the Trenches. The one young lady did an excellent job singing an excellent alto.
Red Cross Booth
We also stopped at the Red Cross booth. Here we learned about how the soldiers received care packages. There we could light a candle to remember those who had gone on before. It was great to write a Christmas card to a Canadian soldier currently serving.
We spent some time at a home set up for the 1900’s. We saw a pamphlet to help people adjust to living during the war. It was full of practical advice.
In this house we were walked through how people would have lived, and the story of one family. We learned the best way to string popcorn and saw period Christmas decorations.
Our last stop was the guard house. Each of us got a period Christmas card, much like the boys would have received in the war. We learned abit about how injured soldiers were cared for. I have to admit, the fire was cozy warm. The men inside the building also educated the boys are terminology use, and many other items. Other than the hot chocolate I probably enjoyed this station the most.
Not to be forgotten was the artifact set up in the main building. This was a treasure trove of information. From the lady who had a display of period Christmas Cards, and an obvious love of communicating what was special about them. I never knew one could learn so much from an old card!
The boys were most interested in checking out the equipment the soldiers used and the weapons they carried. The person manning the both was very knowledgeable and from him we learned that most of the soldiers that participated in the 1914 truce died as a result of their actions. Their commanding officers for the most part transferred them to areas with active fighting. Their actions were firmly frowned upon, and thereafter in the war, some of the heaviest fighting was on Christmas day.
We learned a lot about gas masks, how they progressed over the years. What the gas did. Some gas dissipated easily, other gas settled in down lying areas and just stayed there. The lad tried on a gas mask and said “it’s hard to breathe’. Our instructor said “Now try running with that, carrying all your gear, in the mud”. My son’s face when he took off the mask said it all. Imagine how hard that would have been. The soldiers needed to carry them at all times.
This was an incredibly informative evening and I highly recommend if you have a chance to go, that you do so.
Want to Know More?
Some songs were written about this series of events.
Articles about it
Some books to check out.