This year our church, St. John Lutheran Church, in Fraser, Michigan, performed our 4th annual Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival. These pictures were taken by my son John and I at a dress rehearsal and then at an actual performance on Sunday, December 12, 2010.
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 14th century England the boar was a ferocious beast and sovereign of 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 English University in 1340, and there it continues to this very day.
After centuries of presentation, to the ceremony of the Boar’s Head there has been added the Yule Log (symbolizing the “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, Mary and Joseph, Good King Wenceslas, and the Beefeaters (English ceremonial guards).
The Festival came to America already in colonial days where it was first observed in New England. Through Episcopal churches and schools the ceremony was well established by the late 19th century, particularly at the Hoosac Boys School of Hoosick, New York.
From these beginnings, the Boar’s Head & Yule Log Festival has since spread to be celebrated in many Christian settings. Saint John Lutheran Church continues this ancient tradition, giving it new life through the music, drama, and gifts shared with our community by the 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 celebrate and that it may witness the joy we share in His Salvation.
We at Saint John are especially grateful to Concordia University, Ann Arbor and Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Saginaw for their encouragement and guidance. We also thank Immanuel Lutheran Church, St. Charles, Missouri; and Christ Church Cathedral, Cincinnati, Ohio for the valuable assistance they have given to our preparation of the Boar’s Head & Yule Log Festival. Enjoy the show!