The Louisville Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival is a Kentucky Christmas tradition.
This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the St. Paul UMC Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival, an event that brings more than 2,000 people to our church each year to share in a unique depiction of the gift of Christ to the world.
The performance was created by a core group of visionary staff and volunteers, including Harry Campbell, church member and professional stage manager, and Michael Beattie, St. Paul Director of Music Ministries. Many church members have volunteered on stage and behind the scenes over the years, as the Festival has grown.
Our church’s youth and children drive the Boar’s Head Festival each year. Approximately 75 volunteer in various roles, and have a wonderful time of intense fellowship in rehearsals and shows. Several adults have stories of when they first participated as a child.
The Boar’s Head Festival depends solely upon volunteer time and generous financial donations from St. Paul church members. During this anniversary year, our goal is to cover the cost of the event (about $20,000), and designate extra funds to the Music Enhancement Fund, which is used to support the children’s music program, youth choir trip, purchase of instruments, occasional extra musicians, and special concerts. The Festival is not part of the church budget. The cost of the Festival has remained fairly constant for several years.
St. Paul UMC has a rich tradition of the arts in ministry. Praising God through music and drama is a beautiful way to worship and to be blessed. We know there are many people who leave the Festival feeling the beauty and love that Jesus brought to all, from peasants to kings.
There are a couple ways to financially support the Festival: make a donation, and attend the dinner-the ticket revenue supports the Festival. Please consider a generous donation today. You may give by check, clearly designating it for Boar’s Head, or you may give online and choosing Boar’s Head as your fund.
- Sprites (up to $99)
- Shepherds ($100-$249)
- Saints ($250-$499)
- Angels ($500 – $749)
- Kings ($750 – $999)
- Stars of Wonder ($1000 and up)
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, a minister receives the light. From this flame rises 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. Those from many walks of life, from the greatest to the humblest process to the altar. All bring gifts, suggesting the fullness of Gods gifts to us, to lay at the feet of Christ.
Next come the waits: medieval carolers sharing 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. The yule log is lit from last year’s embers. It represents the warmth of the family fireside and the continuance of human life and concern. Additionally, the Yule Log symbolizes 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 In the Bleak Midwinter is sung by both cast and congregation. All kneel and adore the Lord of lords to the music of the Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence. The church is darkened and the Epiphany Star shines. 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 and Yule Log Festival 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 represents the triumph of Christ over evil.
The Festival has its roots in centuries of tradition, having been first presented at least as early as 1340 at Queen’s college, Oxford, England. In time it became part of Christmas celebrations in the great Manor Houses of England. The festival came to America in 1888 to Hoosac School, Hoosac, New York. The Louisville Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival is a descendant of that early festival.
The Candlelight Dinner
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.