In 1941 the United States of America had just entered World War Two. The Japanese Empire was rapidly expanding across east Asia and had attacked American possessions in the Pacific including Hawaii, the Philippines, and Wake Island. In Europe the fascist armies of Germany and Italy had occupied much of the continent and were at the gates of Moscow and Leningrad. At this critical moment British Prime Minister Winston Churchill sailed across the Atlantic to spend Christmas in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s White House.
Both Roosevelt and Churchill made radio addresses. Said Roosevelt: “There are many men and women in America—sincere and faithful men and women—who asked themselves this Christmas: ‘How can we light our trees? How can we meet and worship with love and with uplifted hearts in a world at war, a world of fighting and suffering and death?'” “Our strongest weapon in this war”, said Roosevelt, “is that conviction of the dignity and brotherhood of man which Christmas day signifies—more than any other day or any other symbol. Against enemies who preach the principles of hate and practice them, we set our faith in human love and in God’s care for us and all men everywhere.”
Churchill spoke of his American heritage and noted: “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.”