Many times good stories have already been told and so it is with the story of “Good King Wenceslas.” He was a real person and while often the bad are infamous and their names are remembered for their evil deeds, names such as Bonnie and Clyde or Billy the Kid, Wenceslas is an exception to the rule. He is famous for his goodness. The story is best told on the web-site “Have a Merry Christmas.” I noticed they are sponsored by Bryan College and I am taking their information and posting it here while asking you to visit this site along with the site of Bryan College:
Good King Wenceslas was not actually a king but a Duke. He was born in Bohemia in 907 to wealthy parents. He was taught Christian principles early in his life and was a devout Catholic. He spent many hours a day as a young man in Church praying. When he was age 15, his father died and he took his father’s place as one of the leaders of Bohemia. He was known as the Duke of Borivoy.
As Duke and a leader of his country, he put into practice the Christian principles and charity he had learned as a young boy. He wanted to reflect God’s love to all the people – even during those Dark Ages. He tried to build his nation on trust, faith and mercy. As an act of charity, he would seek out the poor and weak and would share the kingdom’s riches with them.
He began a tradition that on each Christmas Eve, he and his pages would leave the castle and venture out in the cold snowy night to deliver food and clothing to the poor. Despite his generous and kind spirit, tragedy struck his life.
His twin brother murdered him during a church service in 929. His jealous brother wanted him dead so that he could inherit the throne. Even in the midst of death, the Duke was a merciful person – his last words were to his brother that killed him, “May God forgive you.” The Duke was only 22 years old when he died.
Songs and stories were written about the good Duke. One of these songs is “Good King Wenceslas” which was written by John Mason Neale in 1853. ( You can read the lyrics below.)
The creation of the gift toting Santa Claus, at least in part, was inspired by the generous giving heart of Wenceslas, as well as his Christian charity.
“Good King Wenceslas”
Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath’ring winter fuel
“Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know’st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”
“Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither.”
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather
“Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.”
In his master’s steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.