On The Second Day of Christmas, Bing Crosby Gave To Me... (Good King Wenceslas)
UPDATE: I forgot to add that Bing was very reticent to make Christmas albums at all (he felt wrong taking money for these works). All the profits from his holiday records went to charity.
Some Christmas tunes – at least the timeless ones – bring back vivid memories of studying the album covers and liner notes & graphics of the records in my parents' collection as I listened to the crooners of their day singing these festive songs. I think the memories are definitely more engrained due to the 'tactileness' (not a word, btw) of the experience of removing the jet-black vinyl disc from the cover and placing it on the turntable, then carefully lifting the arm to start the music. The crackles & pops seemed to made the audio experience all the more authentic or real.
One song I loved to play – Good King Wenceslas – was on Bing Crosby's "Songs of Christmas" LP record (spinning at a blazingly fast 33⅓ revolutions per minute). Looking back, I think it was the fact that it told a story so well and had elements that were just so foreign to me then. Despite its complete lack of a Gospel message, I could not help but include it in my Carol a Day project (and, I believe I've found a good tie-in to both the Christmas story and the cross)
You will probably not be shocked to find out that John Mason Neale, a.k.a. "The CarolMaster", is behind this Christmas favorite as well, and it is one more macaronic poem he translated with the source material coming from Václav Alois Svoboda (he was Czechoslovakian) written in a combination of Latin, classic German and Czech.
The song relates the legend of Wenceslas, a Bohemian king, who goes out to give gifts and money to a destitute commoner on the December 26 – the second day of Christmas and the Feast of St Stephen in high church tradition. He takes one of his servants with him who is nearly consumed by the winter weather but is saved by following in the king's footsteps. The carol ends with an overt moral to the story.
While they do not talk about the birth of Christ and are bereft of the Great Work of Salvation, the carol/legend makes me think of Philippians 2:1-11:
(I love how Paul puts Christmas in the context of Easter in this passage.)
If you enjoy this carol like I do, I hope this scriptural juxtaposition gives you pause for reflection as you listen to or sing along with it. Do your (or my) deeds give light to others to help them find their way to Christ? Are the steps you (or I) take ones that others would want to follow in? And, finally, are you (or I) humbling ourselves daily so that the needs of others are placed before that of our own?
Good King Wenceslas
Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen,
"Hither, page, and stand by me, if thou know'st it, telling,
"Bring me flesh, and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither:
"Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger;
In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;