Boar’s Head Festival is the bow that wraps up Christmas

The Boar’s head holds the place on honor on the altar.

By Pamela Dozois

 

St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church celebrated Epiphany, the close of the Christmas season, with its annual Boar’s Head Festival and Feast on Jan. 6.

The festival opened with pageantry and song while members of the Central Coast Pipes and Drums marched up the main aisle of the church playing bagpipes, followed by Christmas Sprite Daphne Urquidez carrying the Yule candle ahead of Father Christmas John Wrench.

The Rev. Dr. Randall Day, priest and rector of St. Mark’s, explained the meaning of the festival and welcomed the audience, which filled the sanctuary to capacity.

“We gather this evening for an enjoyable celebration of the birth of Jesus at the end of this Christmas season, marked by the Feast of the Epiphany. The traditional English boar’s head dates back to the 1300s in Queen’s College, Oxford. Boars menaced villagers in Norman England; the serving of the boar symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. The festival is held this year on The Feast of the Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas, the day the Three Kings are said to have arrived in Bethlehem,” Rev. Day said.

Rev. Day then went on to tell the story of the origin of Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, a real fourth-century bishop and Saint, Nicolas of Myrna.

“Father Christmas is here to remind us that the real Santa Claus was a saint who loved Jesus and did good and unusual things, because of this love,” he said.

As the congregation sang “Angels We Have Heard on High,” about a dozen little angels, sheep, and shepherds walked up the aisle and seated themselves on the altar.

Rev. Day then read from Matthew, telling the story of the three Magi who followed a star to Bethlehem.

As the congregation sang “We Three Kings,” the three kings played by Ted Young, Evan McVicar and Brooks Firestone arrived, carrying their gifts.

Then Rev. Day spoke of the Good King Wenceslas, Nadine Glinski, who along with the Page, Olivia Glinksi, recognized the need of a poor person, played by Bryant Glinski, and responded to that need.

The time had arrived for the feast to begin, but not before The Ruler of Misrule, played by Barbra Mousouris, interrupted the festivities with wild comments and questions, shaking her bell and causing havoc. She was unceremoniously dismissed but invited to dinner nonetheless. Then the Steward of the Feast, Linda Burrows, was called to attend and the Boar Bearers, Stacy and Kirby Cannon, carried the boar’s head down the aisle as the congregation sang the “Boar’s Head Carol.”

Everyone then proceeded to Stacy Hall to enjoy a feast of pork, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, apple sauce and salad along with wine or beer and a plethora of desserts.

“This was the first time I have actually sat down at a table as a guest of the feast,” said Pat Crawford. “I started doing the cooking for the Boar’s Head feast when Father Stacy was at St. Mark’s and I have been doing it so long I honestly can’t remember when I started. I was in charge of cooking everything, including the pork. I like to cook and years ago I used to cook for large groups. But it was time for me to hang up my hat, and it’s time for the younger people to take charge. I want them to take charge. So it was wonderful being on the other side of the kitchen. This was great fun.”

“We’ve lived in the valley for 19 years and have been members of the church for all that time and I have rarely missed the Boar’s Head Feast,” said Rinda Brown. “It is the only event in the valley that ends Christmas so beautifully. There are many events leading up to Christmas, but the rest of Christmas is forgotten. This event is a great send-off to the season. It’s lots of fun and we get to meet new people.”

The traditional singing of “The 12 Days of Christmas” was acted out by each table of guests, and the evening closed with the annual singing of “Silent Night.”

More than one person was overheard lamenting that Elida Ambler’s red cabbage was sorely missed this year, but kudos to those who worked for days cooking and arranging this event.  And a special shout-out to whoever made the persimmon pudding with velvet sauce. Recipe, please?