What It's Really Like To Celebrate Christmas When You're At War

The Christmas season is a wonderful thing. The holiday, being a Christian celebration, has been adopted by people of different or no faith as a day to spend with friends and family. Feasts and gift-giving mark December 25 as a favored day for many around the world. And, why shouldn't it? The entire concept of the season is easily summed up as "peace and joy." Overall, it's a happy time for those who get to spend the holidays with their loved ones. Here's the thing, though: Not everyone gets to be home for Christmas.

Wartime is stressful enough as it is, but being away from those you love on a holiday you'd usually spend with your family makes it all the worse. The bullets have been flying and the bombs have been falling for the whole year, and soldiers want nothing more than to have that one day to spend celebrating instead of fearing for their lives. No wonder that Christmas is still celebrated by soldiers during times of war. That doesn't stop the conflict that's going on, and the stress of combat doesn't dissipate for the holidays. The types of celebrations that are typical to the military are nothing like they are stateside, but there's still a little holiday cheer to go around.

Wartime might seem like the wrong time to celebrate, but morale is important for keeping soldiers from losing their heads. Here's a taste of what Christmas is like when you're at war.

How Christmas is celebrated at military bases today

Let's not forget that these folks are usually a long way from home and have little contact with their loved ones who aren't in uniform with them, so they do whatever they can to create a little holiday cheer.

According to Business Insider, troops are served special Christmas meals at bases around the world, which might not hold up for those currently in the thick of it. Insider does point out that the soldiers in the Middle East receive care packages full of goodies to lift their spirits. As posted on its website, The United States Army writes about some soldiers decorating with paper Christmas trees, while others video chat their families. Some bases even have performers entertain the troops for the holidays, such as in 2017, when, as WTHR reported, Adam DeVine visited Afghanistan. As the USO explains on its website, it's a tradition that dates back to Bob Hope and numerous other entertainers during World War II.

The Christmas season abroad and in uniform isn't always as lonely as you'd assume, but it definitely doesn't feel like the holidays back home. As one army soldier says: "You have your whole platoon which is basically all your best friends. You don't do much, you just work and sleep, but you've got your best friends to the right and left of you the whole time during the holidays, so that makes it pretty easy."

The most famous wartime Christmas

Perhaps the most famous wartime Christmas celebration occurred during World War I: the Christmas Truce of 1914. Technology had advanced to make war a type of deadly that has never been seen before, and the ethics concerning war hadn't caught up. Combat took place in trenches filled with blood and toxic gasses. The war was one of the most brutal in history, and the world will lose more than 15 million lives, but for one brief moment spanning December 24 and 25, the front lines saw peace.

According to Time, the pope had tried to declare a Christmas truce as far back as September of that year, but the idea got nowhere. This is war, and given the numbers both sides are racking up, neither could be trusted to suppress their fire for an entire day. Miracles happen, though, and one certainly happened this Christmas holiday on the Western Front, where nearly two-thirds of the troops participated in a truce.

No one knows how the truce started, but soldiers on both sides went from singing carols to one another to cheers of "Merry Christmas," to full-on gift-giving. Of course, this is war, so the common gifts are cigarettes, hats, food, and the like. They kick soccer balls around and, as one account states, have a pig roast.

Christmas in the trenches isn't without its risks, however. In was war. And in some places, soldiers were shot for trying to spread a little holiday cheer.