But who was Wenceslaus and when is the feast of Stephen?
Saint Stephen's day is today - 26th of December, or 27th for the Eastern churches. He was a Christian martyr and in earlier times his day was a holiday feast celebrated during the full twelves days of Christmas that ran from 25th December to the Feast of the Epiphany (when the three wise men found the baby Jesus) on the 6th of January. In the olden days all twelve days were spent in various religious observances, parties, gift giving and feasting.We've lost out in modern times!
And King Wenceslaus? Well... he was a real person, but he wasn't a king. He was the Duke of Bohemia, born around 907and died around 935, so he was actually a fairly young man. Legends vary, but it seems his father was Christian and his mother probably Pagan, but Wenceslaus grew up Christian and was famous in his homeland and England for being a kind and pious man.
Wikipedia states that the chronicler Cosmas of Prague wrote this about him:
But his deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; for, as is read in his Passion, no one doubts that, rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched.
According to some legends, after Wenceslaus was murdered by his evil brother his faithful servant, Podevin, avenged his death by killing one of those who helped murder his master. I wonder if Podevin is the page in the Christmas Carol?