Athens Review, Athens, Texas

January 4, 2013

St. Stephen’s set for 8th Boar’s Head Festival

Special to the Review
Athens Daily Review

Athens — St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Athens will continue the yearly enactment of the Boar’s Head Festival, a Christmas pageant and dinner celebration, Sunday at 4 p.m.

This year, members of the parish will be joined by several friends from the community. The Men’s Chorus from the community directed by Ted Schroeder will be featured. Mark Carlson will again be the cowboy soloist, and Mark Blank, the singing bell ringer for the Salvation Army, will be our King Wenceslaus.

Many of the 21 Christmas carols will be presented by soloists and musicians directed by Alec Irion of First Presbyterian Church in Mabank.

The Clown Ministry from the Mabank area will participate and the boar’s head and food for the dinner will be processed by the hunters, woodsmen and cooks.

At Roman feasts, boar was the first dish served and continued as 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.

A legend arose that a scholar was reading a book of Aristotle while walking through the forest on his way to Christmas Mass. Suddenly, confronted by an angry wild boar, he rammed his metal-bound philosophy book down the throat of the charging animal and ended the danger. That night, the boar’s head, finely dressed and garnished, was borne in procession to the church’s dining room, accompanied by carolers singing “in honor of the King of bliss.”

The Boar’s Head Festival may be the oldest continuing festival of the Christmas season.   First observed at Queen’s College, Oxford, England 675 years ago, the tradition continues in Athens.

The local festival demonstrates the timeliness of the legend by including the Latin Hymn “Adeste Fidelis” from the 13th century through “Born to be a King” composed  in 1990.  For the same reason the medieval characters usually portrayed are represented by their modern day equivalents, dressed in present day costumes; cowboys and ranchers instead of shepherds, wise people rather than Oriental kings.  The one exception will be Good King Wenceslaus.

The whole congregation participates in singing many of the carols.  All are invited and encouraged to join in loudly and joyfully in the Christmas music becoming an important part of the pageant.  The tradition calls for fellowship at table and a full course dinner is presented including pork loin and roast turkey.  There is no charge for the pageant and dinner. A free will offering is accepted. 

Call 903-675-1639 for more information.