Centennial of The WWI Christmas Truce in 1914

Sainsburys advertisement on centennial of the WWI Christmas Truce

A SCENE FROM THE SAINSBURY’S ADVERTISEMENT: The short film has drawn both praise and condemnation as it recalls the famous World War I Christmas Truce.

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 24: For the best overview of this centennial—recalling a moment 100 years ago when a longing for peace briefly overcame the bitterness of war—read Daniel Buttry’s article (with videos) in our Interfaith Peacemakers section. This column by Buttry is part of a larger series of inspiring stories about WWI peacemakers that Buttry has been collecting in Interfaith Peacemakers.

In this Holidays section of our online magazine, we also are reporting on some fascinating news about this centennial …

WWI AT THE MOVIES

Faith and film columnist Edward McNulty, the editor of the Visual Parables Journal, is so impressed with the main feature film about the Christmas Truce, called Joyeux Noel (or Merry Christmas), that he published a complete study guide to that 2005 film. Visual Parables also recommends other feature films about the First World War, including: The Big Parade (1925), Gallipoli (1981), In Love and War (1996),  A Very Long Engagement (2004), Flyboys (2006) and War Horse (2011).

SAINSBURY’S CONTROVERSIAL AD

The venerable British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s produced one of the most popular videos circling the globe at the centennial of the Christmas Truce. The video debuted in November and, according to one news story in the Guardian newspaper, “While some have questioned the tastefulness of using war to sell food and drink, Sainbury’s has smartly agreed to donate all profits made from the sale of a £1 chocolate bar that features in the advert to the Royal British Legion (RBL).” The RBL is a popular British nonprofit raising funds for veterans.

However, Guardian columnist Charlie Booker writes that he is offended by the ad campaign. “Millions of young men were slaughtered during the First World War … and doubtless as they lay dying in foreign fields, gazing down at what remained of their mud-caked, punctured, broken bodies, gasping their final agonized breaths, it would have been a great source of comfort for them to know their noble sacrifice would still be honoured a century later, in an advert for a shop.”

From the BBC to other major British newspapers, verdicts on the advertisement range from calling it “a moving memorial based on lots of historical research and austere production values” to deriding it as “dangerous and disrespectful.”

On the American side of the Atlantic, AdWeek praises the effort: “The film really is stunning—it’s as cinematic as any war movie, rich and evocative and entirely believable.”

A CBS News report generally praised the effort as part of a helpful mythology about the Christmas Truce. Among other things, CBS questioned whether a German-British soccer game was played during the truce. No one, it seems, can find an original account of such a game.

A Wall Street Journal essay says that this advertisement might encourage more public interest in the untold stories of peacemakers. The WSJ concludes that, as a story, the Christmas Truce’s “familiarity and fame … should not lead us to ignore less dramatic instances of cooperation and trust-building across battle lines during World War I. Indeed, these more modest episodes may be the key to understanding how, in our own day, we might work to lessen political violence and hostility, even among the most bitter enemies.”

Watch the Sainsbury’s film below. NOTE that, when the video ends, you will see links to 2 more short videos about the production of this advertisement.

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