The Boar’s Head Festival

The boar’s head in hand bear I
bedecked with bays and rosemary.
And I pray you my masters, be merry,
Quot estis in convivio.
Caput apri defero,
Reddens laudes Domino.

The boar’s head, as I understand,
Is the bravest dish in all the land.
When thus bedecked with a gay garland,
Let us servere cantico.
Caput apri defero,
Reddens laudes Domino.

Our steward has provided this
In honor of the King of Bliss;
Which on this day to be served is,
In Regimensi atrio.
Caput apri defero,
Reddens laudes Domino.

The mightiest hunter of them all
We honor in this festal hall
Born of a humble virgin mild,
Heaven’s King became a helpless Child.
Caput apri defero,
Reddens laudes Domino.

He hunted down through earth and hell
The swart boar death until it fell.
This mighty deed for us was done.
Therefore sing we in unison:
Caput apri defero,
Reddens laudes Domino.

Let not this boar’s head cause alarm,
The huntsman drew his power to harm.
So death, which still appears so grim,
Has yielded all its power to Him!
Caput apri defero,
Reddens laudes Domino.

On Friday night, we had the opportunity to attend a performance of the Boar’s Head Festival, at Peace Lutheran Church in St. Louis. It’s been 12 years since I’ve gotten to go to the festival (at a different church), so I was very excited to refresh my memory about it, and to take the children, and see their reactions. (I wasn’t disappointed!) It also fit in well with our “Christmas in England” theme for Christmas School this year.

All of the children loved it, even Chickadee. There was so much to watch and listen to, and even though we were sitting in the back, because of all of the activity in the aisles of the church, they had plenty to look at. There was dancing and various musical performances (including a bagpiper, trumpets, and madrigals), and entertainment from a court jester (hilarious!), in addition to the presentation of the feast, the yule log, the wassailers, and the nativity story at the end.

If you’ve never been to a Boar’s Head Festival before, here’s a rough outline:

The Courtly Story

  • The Coming of the Yule Sprite
  • The Approach of the Herald Banners
  • Procession of the Beefeaters
  • The Boar’s Head Procession
  • Court Entertainment
  • The Yule Log Procession
  • The Wassailers

The Christmas Story

  • Mary and Joseph Approach the Inn
  • The Apparition
  • The Shepherds
  • The Adoration of the Wise Men
  • The Christ Light

After the festival was over, we got to head over to the gym and enjoy cookies, punch, and wassail. And take pictures of the performers. The lighting wasn’t great, so my pictures aren’t as good as I hoped, but they still give a general idea of what the evening was like.

A wise man and the jester…what an odd pairing!

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A monk:

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The Beefeaters (Turkey loved seeing them!):

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The baker:

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A bagpiper (minus his tall fur hat):

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Lords and ladies aplenty:

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And, of course, good King Wenceslas himself:

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The costumes were detailed and beautiful:

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And the props were excellent, as well:

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Of course, the star of the performance–the Boar’s Head:

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The children decided that their favorite part of the evening was the singing of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” as acted out by the jesters. I have to say, I agree…it was hilarious.

It did run a little long, which was too bad, because the part that became “boring” was the nativity story at the end. But everything before that was enjoyed by everyone (especially when the servers came through with cookies for the audience during the feast!). I’m glad we made time in our busy pre-Christmas schedule to attend!

God bless our fam’lies here at peace
Wherever they may be!
Those who wander, those at home,
In Christ are one with Thee:
Love and joy come to you
And to you your wassail too.
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.

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