Joyeux Noel

joyeux noel

I put in long hours of researching before I ever put pen to paper, er, finger to keyboard for another brilliant story. And when I say hours, I mean days, weeks, even months filled with studying books, news articles, old photographs, geography*, documentaries, diaries, and of course movies. As many historical writers will tell you, it’s way too easy to get caught up in researching and not get around to actually writing. Occupational hazard.

During my research for my last work, A Rolls Royce in No Man’s Land, I came across the movie singerJoyeux Noel**. It’s the story of the WWI Christmas truce of 1914 depicted through the eyes of the British, French, and German soldiers. It’s beautifully shot, with all the harshness and grit of war mixed with the hopeful and ever-persevering spirit of human beings. The most stunning and humbling moment of the entire film is when a German singer joins in song with an enemy bagpiper far across no man’s land on Christmas Eve. Enemies who find common ground in music.

Being a movie, much of this is fictionalized, but it is based on fact. The German Crown Prince brought Walter Kirchhoff, tenor from the Berlin Imperial Opera, to visit the front lines. Kirchhoff was applauded by French soldiers from their trenches. The exchange of small tokens and access to the dead for burials occurred up and down the lines in 1914, but happened less and less as the years wore on. To read more on the real Christmas truce, you can find my story here.



*My husband once came home to find me tracing a map of battle trenches on the Somme. He didn’t even bother asking.
** It was actually a Christmas present from my husband. Some people watch It’s a Wonderful Life, we watch war movies.

A to Z blog hop at Patterings.


  1. Tom Threadgill

    I’ve heard the story (originally from the great Paul Harvey if I remember correctly), but never seen the movie. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Karla Akins

      Tom, you have to get the movie. You’ll watch it every year. One of my favorites! Very moving.

  2. Kathleen Rouser

    I will occasionally watch war movies with my hubby, but far prefer the mushy stuff. That being said, I admire the detail of your research and the depth of your story, J’nell! May you and
    your family have a joyous Christmas!

    1. J'nell (Post author)

      I like a good mushy story too. Set it in the midst of natural drama like war and I’m hooked.

  3. Lisa Betz

    I enjoyed that movie a year or two ago. I always enjoy stories where men transcend their animosity and treat each other as persons, especially poignant in the midst of a war scene. I would think it would make it harder to fight “them” again tomorrow, though, which is probably why the military brass didn’t like such things happening.

    1. J'nell (Post author)

      A person who has actually seen it! Wundebar! I’m with you on those kinds of stories, maybe that’s why I enjoy writing them. Unfortunately, most of the men from that story were punished to make sure it never happened again. Sad.

  4. Karla Akins

    This is one of my favorite movies. I’m so glad to see someone write about it! Silent Night (2005) is good, too, as is the very original black and white but its name escapes me. Love, love, love this story.

    1. J'nell (Post author)

      Wow. I’m surprised so many people have seen this movie. I thought it was little known, but yay! Did you not get choked up when he started singing across No Man’s Land? I did.


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