Lessons on Customs and Traditions Seen in St. Wenceslas' Feast and Carol

The Relics of St. Wenceslas, St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague

September 28th marks the feast of St. Wenceslas. When I was a child, one of my favourite Christmas carols was "Good King Wenceslas" which was written by John Mason Neale, an English clergyman who was influenced by the Oxford Movement of Newman's time. My own love for this particular carol fostered within me a curiosity and fond affectation for this saint even when I knew little about him other than his name. It was only through this carol in fact, that I had any knowledge of him whatsoever. Further, it was through this same carol that I came to a more conscious awareness that December 26th was not simply "Boxing Day" (as it is known in Canada, the U.K. and other parts of the world) but, in fact, St. Stephen's day, which feast is mentioned in the first line of this carol.

Even now, whenever I hear this carol, or whenever the feast of St. Wenceslas comes forth on the liturgical calendar, that spark of childhood excitement and intrigue is once again lit. Evidently, others may not share this particular experience with this particular carol or feast day, but one likely has a similar experience with other things or other days, be it another carol or be it some particular food or custom associated with some other time or feast of the liturgical year; perhaps the Advent wreath, the roast goose of Martinmas, or otherwise. Embedded within this, we can find a lesson which is particularly poignant. Nmaely, it seems to me that this tiny example speaks again of why customs, traditions and practices -- both those that we find within liturgy proper and those without in the context of the domestic church -- are particularly important to foster and exercise, for they have the power to influence and to form, planting the seeds that might later bloom.

There are many customs and traditions which are attached to the liturgical year and which spring from the liturgical year. These, like the liturgical year itself, have the power to teach and the power to delight and their presence is particularly formative in children and something which can be carried by children into their adult lives. Indeed, these things not only assist us by helping to embed the liturgical year into our broader lives, they may be precisely what can help to keep one in the Faith, or lead one back to the faith of their childhood.

Traditions and customs are very effectual and powerful aids which assist one in living a liturgical life. As such, I can only continue to encourage families and churches to foster such customs and traditions, emphasizing and highlighting their connection to the liturgical year.

St. Wenceslas celebrations in Prague, Sept. 24, 2020.

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