In the past I’ve been more of Bah, humbug! kind of girl when it comes to the holiday season. There are a lot of reasons for that, most of them to do with memories of Christmases past.
I haven’t even decorated my house in previous years.
This year because of the ice and cold weather, and the economic glum and doom, I reckon a little cheering up is in order. So, last night we broke out the few decorations we own, along with a couple of new purchases, and placed them around the house. I hummed ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland’ as I did so.
The starlights are a set I got recently, and I like how they reflect in the window after darkness descends. They form a bright barrier against the winter night. That’s what the spirit of this time of the year means to me: keeping hope against despair, remembering that these short days will lengthen again and enjoying the good aspects of winter, even if they seem few and far between sometimes.
I’m not a huge fan many carols of because I’m areligious, although I’ve always had a fondness for Good King Wenceslas. When I was a kid I liked the imagery of the King and the page forging through the snow to bring gifts to the poor, and enjoyed the flowery language (which I’m less enamoured of now). I was introduced to the song when I learned to play it on the recorder, and it was the tune itself I liked the most.
I later discovered that the tune is quite traditonal: it’s a 13th century spring carol “Tempus adest floridum” (“It is time for flowering”) first published in the 1582 Finnish song collection Piae Cantiones. The “Wenceslas” lyrics were written in 1853 by the English hymnwriter John Mason Neale in collaboration with his music editor Thomas Helmore. The original lyrics praise the beauty of spring and the end of winter, so they have nothing to do with Wenceslas at all.
On top of all of that, Wenceslas I, was a duke of Bohemia, but never a king.
Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story is the oldest writer’s precept…
Poking around on YouTube for musical clips of Good King Wenceslas I encountered a number of rather serious and stuffy versions.
Then I found this version on the ukelele by Jimmy Just Jackman. What I like most about it is the light touch, the setting and how he’s edited the piece together.
And he has a skull in a santa hat. That just makes it for me.
Quite appropriate for a song which is a fusion of different elements anyway.