Winston Churchill on Christmas Eve 1941
"Make for the children an evening of happiness in a world of storm."
On Christmas Eve 1941, in Washington on a diplomatic mission to organize the support of Britain's American allies in the efforts to stop the Nazi menace, Winston Churchill was offered the opportunity to address the American people from The White House. America as a nation had been attacked like never before just weeks earlier, and the horrors of Pearl Harbor were on the minds of every patriot.
How does one set such concerns aside to celebrate Christmas? Churchill told us how, in words that contain a message which is just as meaningful today for all with family far from home, fighting on the front against America's enemies half a world away, or facing challenges here which are enough to make you give up hope. His message rang true then, and it rings true now. And so, more than seventy years since he said it, I share it with you.
Best wishes to you all, and to all a Happy Christmas.
“I spend this anniversary and festival far from my country, far from my family, yet I cannot truthfully say that I feel far from home. Whether it be the ties of blood on my mother's side, or the friendships I have developed here over many years of active life, or the commanding sentiment of comradeship in the common cause of great peoples who speak the same language, who kneel at the same altars and, to a very large extent, pursue the same ideals, I cannot feel myself a stranger here in the centre and at the summit of the United States. I feel a sense of unity and fraternal association which, added to the kindliness of your welcome, convinces me that I have a right to sit at your fireside and share your Christmas joys.
”This is a strange Christmas Eve. Almost the whole world is locked in deadly struggle, and, with the most terrible weapons which science can devise, the nations advance upon each other. Ill would it be for us this Christmastide if we were not sure that no greed for the land or wealth of any other people, no vulgar ambition, no morbid lust for material gain at the expense of others, had led us to the field.
“Here, in the midst of war, raging and roaring over all the lands and seas, creeping nearer to our hearts and homes, here, amid all the tumult, we have tonight the peace of the spirit in each cottage home and in every generous heart.
“Therefore we may cast aside for this night at least the cares and dangers which beset us, and make for the children an evening of happiness in a world of storm. Here, then, for one night only, each home throughout the English-speaking world should be a brightly-lighted island of happiness and peace.
“Let the children have their night of fun and laughter. Let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play. Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures before we turn again to the stern task and the formidable years that lie before us, resolved that, by our sacrifice and daring, these same children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied their right to live in a free and decent world.
“And so, in God's mercy, a happy Christmas to you all.”
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