Boar's Head Festival
The Story of the Boar's Head Festival
Rooted in pagan times when the boar was the first dish served at a Roman feast, the colorful ceremony of the Boar’s Head became a part of the Christmas celebration in the great manor houses of the Middle Ages. The Christian Church endowed the custom with symbolic meaning and elevated it to the service of God, thereby enriching the lives of all it touched. The ceremony sponsored by the Lord of the Manor became a Service of Praise to Jesus Christ, Lord of the Universe and Redeemer of the World.
In medieval England, the boar was a ferocious beast and sovereign to the forest, a danger and menace to man and, therefore, the symbol of evil. The presentation of the boar’s head at Christmas time signified the triumph of the Christ-Child over sin.
No one knows who first planned the Boar’s Head Procession, but it is a matter of record that it was in use at Queen’s College, Oxford, shortly after the founding of the University in 1340, and there it continues to this very day.
After centuries of presentation, to the ceremony of the Boar’s Head there had been added the Yule Log lighted at Christmas (symbolizing our “Light of the World”) whose embers burn all year and then light the next year’s log. Also added over the course of many years were the wise men, the shepherds, the knights, good King Wenceslas and his page, and the beefeaters (English ceremonial guards).
The Festival came to America in colonial days where it was first observed in New England. Through Episcopal churches and schools, the ceremony was well established by late in the 19th century, particularly at the Hoosic School in Hoosick, New York. After much thought and preparation, Bethlehem Lutheran Church has decided to continue this ancient tradition, yet giving it new life through music, drama, and gifts shared with you by the many members of this congregation. This Festival is presented with the hope and prayer that it may be an offering of praise to the One whose Birth we soon celebrate and that it may witness of the joy we share in His Salvation.