Uniting in a spirit of hope is just as important today

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A century ago it had become abundantly clear the war that ‘will be over by Christmas’ would be anything but.

Battle lines had been drawn across Europe and soldiers were dying in droves.

Ypres had been seized from the Germans by the Allies and the only way to fend them off and prevent them advancing into northern France was to fight, doggedly, for the next four years.

But this was the first year of the war. It was the first winter in the trenches and the first time the soldiers would be away from their loved ones.

Yet though the march of war was relentless, so too was the march of time.

And when the Allied soldiers heard carol singing and saw lanterns and small fir trees along the German lines in Ypres, it was a reminder that, though enemies, both sides were united by a common belief.

We don’t like it if people are on their own on December 25, and think they should be with friends or family.

Why? Why is that day more important than any other?

Even if you don’t believe in God, December 25 is a time to spend with the people you love, to see them smile and to take a day off from worrying about things.

It’s a time to reflect on the year, to remember how lucky we are and, while enduring soggy sprouts and a shocking hangover, to enjoy some time with the family.

In 1914 December 25 was the day the two sides, at various points up and down the line, laid down their weapons, exchanged gifts and, as is the wont of boys all over the world, have a bit of a kickabout.

That Christmas Day game was recreated in Aldershot last week, with the British Army again taking on the German Army.

The result is immaterial — that both countries believe such an event should be revered, 100 years on, is what really counts.

And, as we are still reeling from a week of horror in Sydney and Pakistan, uniting in that spirit of hope is just as important now as it was on December 25, 1914.