Rochelle Pennington

The miracle of the spontaneous World War I Christmas truce is the topic of the Burlington Historical Society’s 2011 Christmas program set for Sunday in the Stars and Stripes Room of Veterans Terrace in Burlington.

The program, which begins at 1:30 p.m., will feature a presentation by Wisconsin author Rochelle Pennington.

The presentation is based on a true story included in Pennington’s forthcoming book, “Ten of the Greatest Christmas Gifts Ever Given.” Pennington draws directly from the written memories of those who participated in the events of Christmas 1914, when an estimated 100,000 soldiers experienced the unofficial “Christmas Truce” which spanned hundreds of miles along the Western Front in Europe.

Some truces were initiated when soldiers started singing Christmas songs, while others began when candlelit Christmas trees appeared along the German trenches. In some places the truce started when brave soldiers appeared unarmed in the “No Man’s Land” between the trenches. Many truces began on Christmas Eve, while others commenced on Christmas Day.

Pennington will detail the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the war’s miraculous halt. The author will share vintage photographs of soldiers exchanging gifts with one another, as well as photographs of Christmas trees lit with candles on the battlefield. She will also share diary entries, letters home, and newspaper articles of the time describing the truce.

In addition, she will bring authentic World War I battlefield artifacts, including items exchanged between the British, Scottish, German, and French troops.

The presentation by Pennington, who has also authored “The Christmas Tree Ship,” “The Historic Christmas Tree Ship,” “An Old-Fashioned Christmas: Tinsel, Gingerbread Men and Billie-the-Brownie,” and other books, will be preceded by a short business meeting of the Burlington Historical Society.

Veterans Terrace is located near Echo Park and the White River bridge on Milwaukee Avenue. Refreshments will be served. There is no charge for the program.