Did you miss this year’s Boar’s Head Festival? Would you like to relive the joyful and faith filled weekend? We’ve got a ton of pictures right here courtesy of Kristin Hockanson!
What is the Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival?
A tiny sprite bears a lighted candle into the darkened church symbolizing the coming of the Light into the darkened world. Representing the Church, the Rector receives the light, and from this flame rise the lights of the Altar, and then the lights of the Church itself. A brass fanfare announces the Boar’s Head company. Next come the Ladies in Waiting, and the Lords and Ladies who act as Medieval Waits. These carolers praise the Incarnate Lord in dance and song. The Holy Family enters, then King Wenceslas and his page; the Woodsmen and the Yule Log pages bring in the Holly, Christmas Tree and the Yule Log, ridden by a tiny sprite; the Shepherds searching for the Christ Child; and finally the Three Kings and their pages following the Star of the East and bearing their gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrhh. When all have assembled, “O Holy Night” is sung by the Choir. The Eucharistic hymn “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent” is sung by the choir, the Three Kings, and the Congregation and all kneel in adoration of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. The Church is darkened and the Epiphany star shines over the Altar.
The history of the Boar’s Head reaches back into the days of the Roman Empire. The Boar was the first dish served at great Roman feasts. In Norman England, the Boar was the sovereign of the great forests, a menace to man and a symbol of evil. The serving of the Boar’s Head thus represents the triumph of Christ over evil, begun with his birth at Christmas and manifested as Savior of the whole creation at Epiphany. By the 12th century the symbolism and ceremony of serving the Boar’s Head at Christmastide was fully developed.
The Yule Log, lit from last year’s embers, representing the warmth of the family fireside and the continuance of human life and concern, has from earliest times symbolized the rekindling of love. The old year passes, the new is born, yet the same Love lights each.
No one knows who planned the first Boar’s Head procession. Tradition tells us that a youth was one day walking in the forest on Shotover Hill studying his book of Aristotle when he was attacked by an angry wild boar. He rammed the book down the throat of the charging animal with the cry “Graecum est!” Whereupon the boar choked to death. Thus, according to legend, was the first boar slain. Queens College, Oxford, records the Festival being used shortly after the founding of the University in 1340. After three or four centuries at Oxford and Cambridge, to the ceremony of the Boar’s Head and Yule Log were added the mince pie, the plum pudding, the Shepherds, the Waits, the Wise Men or Three Kings, King Wenceslas, the Pipers, Drummers and the Beefeaters who are the fabled ceremonial guards of the Tower of London. The Festival was a popular Christmas event of the great manor houses of England in the 17th century. The custom of the Boar’s Head and Yule Log was carried to colonial America.
In American colonial days the ceremony of the Boar’s Head and Yule Log was instituted by the Bouton family, who, French Huguenot in origin, lived for a while in England and eventually settled in Connecticut. Later they moved to Troy, New York, where they were closely connected with the work of the Episcopal Church and its schools. A scion of this family, the Rev. Edward Dudley Tibbitts, D.D., became Rector of the Hoosac School in Hoosick, New York in 1888. There he established the Festival which had meant so much to his own household. Christ Church, Cincinnati, in 1940, secured consent from Hoosac School to present this ceremony and from Mr. Frank Butcher, who arranged the music. In that year under the guidance of the Rector and the organist Parvin Titus, the ancient ceremony of Hoosac and Oxford was adapted from its former style of presentation in a refectory and transferred to the Church Nave. Since that time the Festival has become a widespread celebration throughout the United States.
St. Peter’s is proud to present this production to the residents of the Greater Delaware Valley. Over a year of planning went into our first presentation in 1980. Since that time many committees and cast members have spent a great deal of time between performances with continuing research and improvements to costumes, props, lighting and make-up. We are extremely grateful to all of these people for their untiring and dedicated devotion to making each year’s Boar’s Head Festival a continuing success so that together we may share the life, love, and joy of Jesus Christ with others.