In Pictures: Christmas at War

Christmas is a holiday tradition, and most people have an idea of how it ought to be — or at least, how they enjoy celebrating it. Some like tearing down the stairs in the morning, ripping open presents, and enjoying a time of giving among family members. Others see it as a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, a religious time of warmth and reflection. Many find friends and just have a good time together. Others must work to keep the world turning while everyone else enjoys their holiday.

And some are at war, deployed far away from home and far from their families and friends. Despite their difficult circumstances, many make the best of it — even bringing some Christmas spirit along with them to these war-torn places.

I’ve never been a very sentimental person when it comes to holidays, but I remember my first Christmas in Afghanistan. It wasn’t a dramatic realization that I was away during Christmas (I missed my family as much as I did any other day), but I would be lying if I didn’t feel a tug of longing to celebrate the holiday with my family.

Still, like we always did, my friends and I did the best with what we had.

And while our own young men and women are doing this right now in far away places, this has been the case for a very long time. I compiled a few pictures from various wars depicting service members from various nations celebrating Christmas during some of the wars of the last century.

A game of soccer on Christmas day, 1915. The 26th Divisional Ammunition Train is playing outside Salonika, Greece.
British soldiers in WWI eating Christmas dinner on the battlefield, 1916.


Shopping for Christmas in 1939. Imagine what must be going through these peoples’ minds day by day.
British families hide in an air raid shelter in 1940 in London, celebrating Christmas.
Christmas day during the Battle of the Buldge, 1944 (colorized). U.S. forces suffered 89,500 casualties; the British suffered 1,408.
Christmas gifts for service members who were MIA or KIA, waiting for their “return to sender” stamps in New York, 1944.
Two American soldiers decorate a Christmas tree in South Vietnam, 1967.
9th ID soldiers take a break for Christmas in South Vietnam, 1967.
Strykers lined up on Christmas in Afghanistan, 2011.
Myself (left) and Patrick Hawkins (right) around Christmas time in Afghanistan, 2011.
Officers serve Christmas lunch Dec. 25, 2013 at the Koele Dining Facility at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.


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2 years ago

Thank you for reminding us that For generations our service men and women have been protecting our country at home and on foreign soil at all times . God bless.

2 years ago

Those “return to sender” packages hit the feels pretty hard.

2 years ago

Liked all the pictures, except the returned packages. That is always sad. Enjoyed the onesies, however. Only special people with guns can carry off those “uniforms”. lol Thanks for gathering them and sharing these pictures with us Luke.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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