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Christmas traditions from the battlefield

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BerichtGeplaatst: 17 Dec 2010 1:25    Onderwerp: Christmas traditions from the battlefield Reageer met quote

Christmas traditions from the battlefield
Christmas during wartime has always been a bittersweet occasion for both the troops on the frontline and their families back home.

Throughout the different theatres of war, soldiers have strived to maintain the traditions of the festive season.

The Australian War Memorial (AWM) in Canberra has compiled a collection of Christmas memorabilia from the battlefields - the physical remnants of the ghosts of Christmas past.

The collection comprises of gifts, cards and souvenirs from soldiers who spent Christmas at war.

AWM senior curator Rebecca Britt says celebrating the holiday was an important way for the soldiers to stay connected to loved ones back home.

"From the first world war right through to men and women serving today in Afghanistan, there are gifts going back and forth across the world" she said.

Among the collection are care packages from Australia, exotic gifts from Palestine, and cut-outs of Christmas figures made by soldiers in Prisoner-of-War camps.

In some cases, the enemy even provided 'gifts'.

In Korea, the enemy left the diggers offerings of propaganda cards and banners in no man's land.

But once the Australians reached the gifts, the realised they had trekked through a minefield.

AWM assistant curator of published and digitised collections Kathryn Hicks says the troops were lucky to escape.

"Australians particularly liked souveniring, it was only when they were out, had taken the banner down off the trees, they realised they could have been in a minefield," she says.

"It was lucky it had been snowing that day so they could re-trace their steps to make it back safely."

Despite their grim surroundings, Christmas for the troops was a special day.

"There are certain elements of celebrating Christmas which we see recurring throughout our collection... throughout history," says Ms Britt.

"It seemed to be no matter where they were, they wanted to celebrate it, no matter how small how simple," adds Ms Hicks.

For those on the frontline, the celebration of Christmas brought an all-too brief peace and sense of normality to the horror of war.

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