Any American child who has had to perform in a Christmas conert or gone caroling has suffered through the interminable verses of "Good King Wenceslas". Caroling is basically a medieval English tradition adopted (like so many others, with its edges filed off) by the Victorians; Sir Arthur Sullivan, of Gilbert-and fame, tried his hand at a few, but "Good King Wenceslas" is by an earlier writer, the Anglican scholar and hymnist John Mason Neale. The carol itself contains no references to the Nativity or to Christ; instead it talks about King Wenceslas as a saint and reminds "Christian men" of the virtues of charity. Wenceslas, also known as Vaclavor, was a tenth century Czech ruler, the Duke of Bohemia. He was raised by his grandmother, Ludmilla, a royal convert to Christianity following the proselytizing mission of Saints Cyril (or Cyrillic fame) and Methodius; his mother, however, was a pagan. The conflict between the pagan nobility and the Christian Vaclavor was not just over religion but also about Vaclavor’s relationship with Henry the Fowler, king of the Germans, whose son Otto would become the first Holy Roman Emperor, and the relationship between the Czechs and the Germans. Tenth century primary sources being scarce, it’s difficult for modern sources to say what stirred emotions — religious conflict, a move by Henry to make Bohemia into a client state — but rebellion broke out during Vaclavor’s reign. Ludmilla’s martyrdom proceeded Vaclavor’s own (at the hands of his brother) by only fourteen years. Today he’s the patron saint of the Czech Republic, and Wenceslas Square is at the heart of downtown Prague. He was, as the carol tells us, known for his good works and charity towards the poor; miracles associated with the saint include healing the lame and the blind. But it’s not a Christmas carol at all; the only reason most non-Czechs have ever heard of Saint Wenceslas is that Neale decided to set his song during the Feast of Saint Stephen — Boxing Day. Celebrity has nothing to do with talent, even for thousand-year-old saints.