The Louisville Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival is St. Paul’s annual gift to the city. This festival, presented between Christmas and New Year’s Day, December 29, 30 and 31, portrays the spirit of Christmas in a medieval setting with elaborate costumes; festive music by choir, organ, and brass; and elegant candlelight dinners. Over 300 members of our church family serve in this ministry to some 2,000+ guests from our city as we “offer Christ to metropolitan Louisville.”
The Festival is a unique musical and theatrical experience depicting Christ’s light coming into the world and calling us to be that light through service and love.
A tiny gold sprite bears a lighted candle into the darkened church symbolizing the coming of the light into the darkened world. Representing the church, the Minister receives the light, and from this flame rise the lights of the altar and then the lights of the church itself. A brass fanfare announces the entrance of the Boar’s Head Celebrants. In a grand procession of those from many walks of life from the greatest to the humblest follow the slain boar to Christ’s altar. All bring their gifts and goodments, suggesting the fullness of Gods gifts to us, to lay at the feet of the Christ child. Next come the waits: medieval carolers sharing their gifts of gladness. King Wenceslas and his page enter and share their journey of caring for fellow humans. Woodsmen and yule log sprites search for a suitable log to take home to the fireplace. Lit from last year’s embers, and representing the warmth of the family fireside and the continuance of human life and concern, the Yule Log has, from earliest times, symbolized the rekindling of love. Finally the shepherds come, their simple adoration joined by the greatest of Wise Men, also humbled by this newborn Child.
When all have assembled, the haunting hymn of Christina Rosetti In the Bleak Midwinter is sung by both cast and congregation. To the music of the Eucharistic Hymn Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, all kneel and adore the Lord of lords and King of kings. The church is darkened and the Epiphany Star shines forth. The festival ends with a majestic brass fanfare and a rendition of O Come, All Ye Faithful, sung by cast and congregation.
The history of the boar’s head reaches back into the days of the Roman Empire. The boar was the first dish served at great Roman feasts. In Norman England, the boar was the sovereign of the great forests, a menace to man and a symbol of evil. The serving of the boar’s head thus represents the triumph of Christ over evil, begun with His birth at Christmas and manifested as Saviour of the whole creation at Epiphany. The festival has its roots in centuries of tradition, having been first presented at least as early as 1340 at Queen’s college, Oxford, and in time becoming part of Christmas celebrations in the great Manor Houses of England. The custom of the Louisville Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival was carried to America where the first performance took place at Hoosac School, Hoosac, New York, in 1888. Read more about the history of the festival.
A candlelight dinner is served in the Social Hall of the church prior to the festival. It is served in elegant style, with a carefully prepared menu, including hot wassail.