The Grosse Ile Boar’s Head Festival, a Christmas celebration with music and pageantry, has been taking place on the island since 1980. Sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Churches, the Boar’s Head Festival is truly an ecumenical undertaking. Many members of our Island churches make up the 600 people who sing, perform, or contribute their skills in the production of the festival by working on sets, costumes, lights, sound, publicity, and programs.
Spectators will see and hear a brass ensemble, recorders, handbells, bagpipes, harpsichord, singers, dancers, tumblers, jesters, townspeople and a Christmas story. Musicians include an adult, youth and children’s choir of more than 100 voices, and a 25-piece orchestra.
Rooted deeply in pagan times when the boar was the first dish served at a Roman feast, the colorful ceremony of the Boar’s Head became a part of the Christmas celebration in the great manor houses of the Middle Ages. The Christian Church endowed the custom with symbolic meaning and elevated it to the service of God.
In Norman England, the ferocious boar was considered sovereign of the forest, a danger and a menace to man, and therefore, a symbol of evil. The presentation of the Boar’s Head at Christmas time the triumph of the Christ Child over sin. One of the earliest records of the Boar’s Head procession reveals that it was in use at Queen’s College, Oxford, shortly after the founding of the university in 1340. It continues there to this day. The Boar’s Head is brought in with great ceremony to the strains of the ancient Boar’s Head Carol.
The custom of decorating homes with evergreen, holly and mistletoe was inherited from the ancients. They considered the holly plant and evergreen as symbols of eternal life. Mistletoe was given to people for charms to bring them peace and happiness and romance.
The fresh Ale log, lighted by last year’s ember, has from the earliest times marked the rekindling of love as the old year passes and the new one is born. The plumb pudding and mince pie signify the richness of Christ’s gifts to mankind. The custom of the wassail bowl stems from an ancient Anglo-Saxon pledge, “Waes-Hael,” which means, “Be in Health.” The medieval bowl was chosen for its great size and beauty.
Music Composition and Arrangements by Douglas Scott.