Boar’s Head Festival

While I was serving on the jury, this holiday season got placed on hold. The trial didn’t leave room for any thoughts of celebration. Now that the trial is over, it is time to dive into the spirit of the season. On Saturday, I put up our exterior lights, an old bicycle that I have wreathed in mini-blubs. It is an easy to implement and personalized light display. I also hauled all of the Christmas ornaments up from the basement and set out our hearth display. The rest will have to wait until we get a tree.

The Boar's Head

The Boar’s Head

Really though, we began celebrating Christmas on Friday evening. Becky and Randy, friends of Joanie, are members of the Immanuel Lutheran Church, in Saint Charles. Becky and Randy had invited Joanie, Vicky, Anne and I to attend their church’s Boar’s Head Festival. I went to see Condi Rice speak last month with Joanie, Becky and Vicky and we’ve dined with Becky and Randy before.

The tradition of the Boar’s Head Festival is rooted in ancient times when the boar was sovereign of the forest. A ferocious beast, and menace to humans, it was hunted as a public enemy. At Roman feasts, boar was the first dish served. Roasted boar was a staple of medieval banquets. As Christian beliefs overtook pagan customs in Europe, the presentation of a boar’s head at Christmas came to symbolize the triumph of the Christ Child over sin.

This festival is the oldest in the Saint Louis area. It was brought to Saint Louis when representatives of Immanuel Lutheran traveled to Concordia University in Ann Arbor. There they learned how to create their own Boar’s Head Festival. This festival originated at Queen’s College, Oxford, England in 1340. Legend has it that a scholar was studying a book of Aristotle while walking through the forest on his way to Christmas Mass. He was confronted by an angry wild boar. Having no other weapon, the resourceful Oxonian rammed his metal-bound philosophy book down the throat of the charging animal, whereupon the brute choked to death.

The Court Jester

The Court Jester

The festival that we attended included elements from medieval England, both funny and profane. The festival opened with the court of the good ole King Wenceslas. His court is guarded by a quartet of Beefeaters. It comes with a trio of jesters and one lucky little girl was picked as the Yule Sprite. The second half of the festival is a retelling of the Nativity story. There was plenty of great music throughout.

After the festival proper there was a reception, with cookies and wassail. Photography was allowed at the reception and many of the participants were there to pose. After the reception, Joanie, Vicky, Anne and I retired down the street to Pio’s, for a late night repast of Saint Louis style pizza.

Happy Hanukkah, Joanie!

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