What a 'boar' - Church holds ancient, traditional festival

Published on Friday, 10 January 2014 23:19 - Written by By Rebecca Hoeffner rhoeffner@tylerpaper.com

First Christian Church held its Boar’s Head Festival, a tradition Epiphany celebration, on Friday.

“We’re excited about it,” said Ann Russell, artistic director of the event.

The church holds the event every other year; its first event was in 2012.

“It was successful two years ago, but we thought it would be too much to do it every year, right after the holidays,” Mrs. Russell said.

Chris Pulliam, senior minister, said the idea took off because of the unusualness of the event and the many “fine-arts minded people” in the congregation.

“This pageant is rooted in ancient times when the boar was sovereign of the forest,” reads boarsheadfestival.com. “A ferocious beast and menace to humans it was hunted as a public enemy. At Roman feasts, boar was the first dish served. Like our Thanksgiving turkey, 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.

The Festival we know today 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. Suddenly, 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. That night the boar’s head, finely dressed and garnished, was borne in procession to the dining room, accompanied by carolers singing “in honor of the King of bliss.”

The ceremony expanded to include other religious dramatizations as spread across England to the United States.

The event in Tyler will include festive decorations and people dressed in medieval costumes, complete with a royal court. A string quartet and a choir will be featured. Tickets are $12 and the event will be held in the Family Life Center. Dinner is included.