Tuesday 26 December 2023




Good King Wenceslas’ is a popular English Christmas carol, telling the story of Saint Wenceslaus, Duke of Bohemia in the tenth century. He is the patron saint of the Czech Republic.

He was a good ruler and generous to his people. Every Christmas he would go with several of his pages to take food, firewood and clothing to his poorest and most needy subjects. He also encouraged the rich to give to the poor.

The ‘Feast of Stephen’ mentioned in the first verse is St Stephen’s Day, the second day of Christmas, more familiar to most as Boxing Day.

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.

It is another of those carols that children are taught and often do not understand. Thus ‘Wenceslas’ becomes ‘Wences last’. In similar vein, in ‘Away in a manger’ the verse that asks

‘And stay by my side  

Until morning is nigh’     

is rendered as

‘And stay by my side  

Until morning is night’     

 . . . and who can forget that wonderful character in ‘The angel Gabriel’ – ‘Most highly-flavoured lady’ ?

Children adapt the words that are unfamiliar to them to their evident satisfaction and to the amusement of listening adults.



  1. I still prefer my school boy version....
    "Good King Wenceslas last looked out
    On the feast of Stephen...
    Bumped into a Brussel sprout
    Deep and crisp and even"....! ;)

  2. Hi Janice - love the woodcut ... and yes Wenceslas is one of my favourite carols ... cheers Hilary

  3. I never knew who Wenceslas was, so thank you for another educational post Janice! xxx

  4. I've always liked that carol. x x x

  5. It is really fun sometimes to listen to the words children sing, correct or not! Merry Christmas to you!

  6. The music of good carols recommends them, summons the season irrespective the of the words (think of the Ukrainian carol of the bells)


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