Sunday, December 12, 2010

Good King Wenceslas: Stained Glass Ornament Craft

Most of us have probably heard the Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslas", but many have probably never heard the lyrics beyond the first couple of lines:

"Good King Wenceslas looked out on the feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about deep and crisp and even."

When my husband and I were first married we decided that we wanted to start a few special traditions in our family.  One idea we had was to memorize a new Christmas carol every year around Christmastime.  For our first carol, we memorized "Good King Wenceslas".  We were drawn to it because of the obvious reference to "Stephen" (My husband's name is Steve.)  But we were also curious to find out what this song was all about.

"Good King Wenceslas" is a popular Christmas carol about a king who goes out to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen (the second day of Christmas, December 26). During the journey, his page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by the heat miraculously emanating from the king's footprints in the snow. The legend is based on the life of the historical SaintWenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia (907–935), known in the Czech language as Svatý Václav. (Wikipedia)

Here is the full text of the song (in case you want to memorize it as the tons of spare time that you have! ;)  Written by John Mason Neale:

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing 

I found this picture book version of this beloved song at the library.  My kids seemed captivated by the story.  I took time to make sure they understood what was going on, since the language is sort of archaic.   The final line is, "Therefore, Christian men be sure, wealth or rang possessing.  Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing."

I talked with my kids about a family who is in need this Christmas.  They lost their home in a fire recently.  Guy immediately went to work gathering items to give to them.  He went straight for his "trampoline money"...a pot of coins and cash he's been saving since summertime in order to buy a trampoline.  He put the whole amount in the box to be given to this family who lost their home, of his own accord, without any hesitation.

Then he took his very soft pillow case off of his pillow to give away.  And it went on like this for a while.  I tell kids are earning their wings this Christmas, but that'll be another post.

When my husband and I were married, the temple officiator advised us to strive to "always be benevolent" in our marriage and in our lives.  The definition of benevolent:  well-meaning, kindly, serving a charitable rather than profit-making purpose, desiring to help others, organized for the purpose of doing good, marked by goodwill.

It is no wonder that as we strive to follow our Heavenly King, we must also work to cultivate these royal characteristics that are inside of each of us.

We also made these "stained-glass ornaments" to sort of mimic the artwork in the book.  They are super easy to make.  Here's how:

What you'll need:

Black self-adhesive craft foam
clear plastic wrap
cookie cutters
cookie pan
markers, scissors, glue, pencil

Trace around your cookie cutter shapes and cut out.

Then draw a 1/4 inch line inside the outer edge and cut out again.

Place plastic wrap flat on cookie sheet.  Place black craft foam on sheet, sticky-side down.

Using regular markers coat the plastic wrap inside of your black foam with ink.

Next flood the inside of your ornament with glue.  Careful to go to the edge, but not over.

Then let it dry for 8-12 hours or so.  The tutorial where I found this suggests 36 hours, but ours did not take nearly that long.  When it is dry, remove from plastic, insert ornament hooks, and they should look like this!  They look cool when the light shine through them, and since they are sticky on the back of the foam, you can also stick them to a window!

To see the craft that we did on this day last here.


  1. What a great idea. We will have to look and see if we can find the things we need to make them. I think the girls would love it. Thank you for sharing!! I will also be sharing this Christmas Carol with them. I learned it many years ago in Choir class, but never understood the meaning. I love the way you expressed it and it is a great goal to memorize it with the family.

  2. what fun ideas, we went to a musical concert last night and they sang that song. thanks for explaining it more...happy holidays

  3. Awesome craft idea. I will most likely be making this with my boys this week! :)

    What a wonderful story with your kids as well. I am sure you will treasure that memory always.

  4. I think Christmas at your house sounds like heaven, which is as it should be.

    And I love the story of that song, which I did not know. I am going to look for the lovely book you have, and if I can find it, I will read it to my grandchildren when they arrive on the 23rd.

    Thanks for a beautiful, uplifting post.


  5. When I was at BYU, I chose to illustrate this song for my Music in Education class. I scanned the pages, and have them here:

  6. So great! You seriously have the best stories and perspective...

  7. So beautiful!:) Dave and I love to sing "Once in Royal Davids City" for the same reason. hehehehehe

  8. Seriously, you have the best kids... probably because you are the BEST mom. And I love how easy and non-baked the stained glass is. I can't wait until my kid is old enough to do things like this!