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Thu Dec 6, 2018, 08:56 AM

FSogol's 2018 Advent Calendar Day 6: Good King Wenceslas and Good Duke Wenceslas

One of my favorite Christmas Carol's s Good King Wenceslas. Wiki tells us:

"Good King Wenceslas" is a Christmas carol that tells a story of a Bohemian king going on a journey and braving harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen (December 26, the Second Day of Christmas)*. During the journey, his page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by following the king's footprints, step for step, through the deep snow. The legend is based on the life of the historical Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia or Svatý Václav in Czech (907–935). The name Wenceslas is a Latinised version of the modern Czech language "Václav".

In 1853, English hymnwriter John Mason Neale wrote the "Wenceslas" lyrics, in collaboration with his music editor Thomas Helmore, and the carol first appeared in Carols for Christmas-Tide, 1853. Neale's lyrics were set to the melody of a 13th-century spring carol "Tempus adest floridum" ( "The time is near for flowering" ) first published in the 1582 Finnish song collection Piae Cantiones.

* The 2nd Day of Christmas called the Feast of St Stephen or more commonly boxing Day is a day for charitable giving.

His statue in Prauge. Legend has it that if the Czech Republic is ever in danger, he will return.

Wenceslas didn’t come from Christian stock: his grandfather had been converted to Christianity by Saints Cyril and Methodius. And his mother was the daughter of a pagan tribal chief – though she was baptized before she was married. When young Wenceslas’ father died there was a power vacuum: the young boy’s mother was banished and his grandmother killed by assassins – it’s said she was strangled with her own veil.

But once the dust had settled, the people of Bohemia decided they’d like Wenceslas to be their ruler. His mother ruled as regent until young Wenceslas reached the age of 18… at which point he promptly banished her. To try and avoid disputes, the country was split in two and half given to Wenceslas’ younger brother, Boleslaus.

But Boleslaus wasn’t happy with the set up and in September 28, 935 he plotted with a group of noblemen to kill his brother. The three nobles – Tira, Česta, and Hněvsa – stabbed Wenceslas – before his own brother ran him through with a lance.


He was promoted to Sainthood two years later due to his work helping the poor. His Saints Day is Sept 28. He is buried in St Vitus’ Cathedral (Prague) & his Saint’s Day is a public holiday in the Czech Republic.

This song has been performed by everyone from Frank Sinatra to the Beatles. IMO, the best version of this song was performed by Dennis Day on one of the Jack Benny Christmas shows in the 1940s.

(For an explanation of my advent project and a link to last years posts, see
https://www.democraticunderground.com/10181152160 )

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