Czech, Bohemian, and Moravian
Genealogical Research

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Christmas in the Czech Republic

Good King Wenceslaus
Hodny Kral Vaclav

Good King Wenceslaus 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, gathering winter fuel.

Hither page and stand by me if thou knowst 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 pinelogs hither
Thou and I will see him dine when we bear them thither
Page and monarch forth they went, forth they went together
Through the rude winds wild lament, and the bitter weather.

Sire the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart I know now 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.

The following is from a press release by the Press Office of the Czech Bishops' Conference...................

St Wenceslas (in Czech Václav, originally Veceslav, Vaceslav; the meaning of the name is the same with that of his brother Boleslav: "more famous") was a Bohemian duke in the 10th century, son of Vratislav I, Duke of Bohemia, and Drahomira, daughter of a pagan tribal chief.

Born probably in 907, he was educated in the Old-Slavonic language by his grandmother St Ludmila, who also gave him the Christian principles of being a real man and a righteous ruler. He also gained knowledge of the Latin tradition and was able – according to an old-Slavonic legend – "read the Holy Scriptures in Latin, Greek as well as Slavonic."

After the death of Vratislav, Drahomira, acting as regent, opposed Christianity; however, in 924 or 925 Wenceslas assumed government for himself and had Drahomira exiled. He promoted the spread of Christianity throughout Bohemia.

Being a duke of a small country between two great nations, Wenceslas sought alliance with the Holy Roman Empire: Great Moravian princedom in the east collapsed in raids of Magyar tribes, Byzantium was too far to help, and Slav tribes in the north and east were still pagan. On the other hand, German priests were already operating in the country and Wenceslas himself kept company with King Henry the Fowler – the alliance was also expressed by building of a new church, devoted to St Vitus, whose relic Henry had donated.

Because of this relationship, the pagan nobility of Bohemia saw Wenceslas and his faith as a threat not only to their pagan tradition, but also to their very sovereignty. In September 935, a group of nobles allied with Wenceslas' younger brother, Boleslav, in a plot to kill the duke. Boleslav, having invited his brother to celebrate the feast of Ss Cosmas and Damian in his seat of Stara Boleslav, murdered him on his way to church for morning worship, and thus succeeded him as the Prince of Bohemia. Three years later Boleslav, having repented of his deed, ordered Wenceslas' relics to be transferred to the church of St Vitus in Prague.

Wenceslas is the patron saint of the Czech people and the Czech Republic. His feast day is 28 September. Since 2000, it is a public holiday in the Czech Republic, celebrated as the Czech Statehood Day.

Wenceslas' virtues, care of the poor, and charity are well known outside the Czech Republic as well – through the popular Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslas" that tells a legend of his visit and endowing of a poor man "on the feast of Stephen". [Dec. 26]

Source: Press Office of the Czech Bishops' Conference

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