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Silent night?

The story behind the advert

by Becky May

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To examine the events of December 1914, as highlighted by the Sainsbury’s 2014 Christmas advert, and what we can learn from the actions of the soldiers that day in bringing a temporary peace to the war zone.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a laptop, projector, speakers and access to the internet, so that you can display the lyrics to ‘Silent night’.


  1. Good morning, I wonder if you have seen any of the Christmas adverts on television. Which ones have you enjoyed seeing? Which ones make you feel all Christmassy?

    (Invite the children to share their favourite.)

  2. I wonder if any of you have seen this advert?

    (Play the Sainsbury’s advert, which can be found here:
  3. Actually, children, you may not know this, but this advert is based on an event that is widely believed to have really happened, although we’re not absolutely certain.

    This year, we are remembering the First World War, because it began one hundred years ago in July 1914.

  4. When the war began, many people thought it would be very short and that they would all be home before Christmas, but the war actually lasted for just over four years, so many young men found themselves far away from home that Christmas, fighting in a war. Most of the soldiers who fought on both sides were young men, like you saw on that film. They didn’t really understand all of the things that had caused the war and had no real hatred for the men who fought on the other side; they were just there to do a job, fighting as they were told to do.

  5. On Christmas Eve, something almost miraculous happened. In different places along the frontline where the men were usually fighting, men on both sides started singing Christmas carols, including ‘Silent night’ as we saw on the video. They stood up above the trenches to show that they had no weapons, and for a short while, instead of fighting, there was peace.

  6. For the rest of that day, and into Christmas Day as well, the men who had been enemies became friends. They spoke to one another, showed photographs of their families back home, played football and even found small gifts to give each other as a way of celebrating Christmas together. It was a very special time of peace.

  7. The Christmas carol ‘Silent night’ was written by someone in Germany almost one hundred years before the First World War, which means it is now almost two hundred years old! It was a carol that people in both England and Germany would have known, so both sides could sing it together. The words of the carol spoke of the night that Jesus was born, the first Christmas.

    (Display the lyrics to the carol.)

  8. This carol talks about the baby Jesus sleeping in heavenly peace. At other times in the Bible, Jesus is described as the Prince of Peace who came to earth to bring God’s peace to the world.

  9. On that Christmas Eve in the First World War, a very special sense of peace came to a place where there had been much fighting. This happened right in the middle of the war because the men on both sides chose to keep Christmas special. What do you think it was that they did that enabled the men to enjoy that Christmas peace?

    (Help the children to recall the giving of gifts, the showing of friendship and the singing of a carol that focused on the story of the first Christmas.)

  10. You may find it appropriate to show the video again as you draw the assembly to a close. You may also like to watch the video ‘The story behind the advert’ at a later point, perhaps back in the classroom, as it shares some of the first-hand accounts which help to tell the story. This can also be found here:

Time for reflection

Let us make ourselves really quiet so that we can think about those men who fought in the war and remember the sacrifice that they made so that we can enjoy peace in our country today. Let us remember that, even in the midst of a war, those men chose to honour Christmas and share God’s peace with one another. Let us also remember that this Christmas, there will be men and women who are not at home to enjoy Christmas with their families, as they serve in the army, navy and air force, working in other countries to keep peace around the world.

For older children
Do you feel comfortable that this image has been used to advertise a supermarket at Christmas? Even though the shop is giving the profits from the chocolate away, should we be using that as an advertising story, designed to get people to shop at Sainsbury’s rather than another shop?

Dear God. Thank you for your gift of peace which you promise to all people in the world. Thank you for all those men and women who have worked both in the past and today to bring peace where there is fighting. This Christmas, as we remember this special story from the First World War, help us to find ways to share peace instead of fighting or disagreeing with the people who we meet.


‘Silent night’ (Traditional)

Publication date: December 2014   (Vol.16 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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