Lessons from the Boar’s Head Festival

By January 16, 2012Sales and Marketing


The Boar’s Head Festival is a grand performance that our Church presents annually in mid January to mark the Epiphany. During the past few years I’ve been lucky enough to be cast as a Beefeater. As a member of the Royal Guard my duty is to protect the King, Queen other royals that take part in the musical procession.

Besides getting to hang out with a bunch of great guys (both current and former beefeaters) and enjoy an awesome steak dinner between performances. I also have the chance to converse with many of the spectators that come to get refreshments after the show. I’ve learned that many of the spectators are repeat customers.  Some have seen the show a dozen times or more.

When I ask them why they spend their money to see the same show over and over they tell me that the performance is just so wonderful. Another observation I’ve made is many of these repeat customers have brought along a friend or work associate to experience the show for the first time. And those people are smiling from ear to ear and full of praise and questions.

I believe there is a good lesson to learn here that applies to any endeavor or business. The lesson is simply; that a wonderful performance equals happy repeat customers. And happy repeat customers provide their “word of mouth” endorsement to others.  Happy Customers are not only the life-blood of any business but can and often become for best form of marketing. The lesson to remember is; if we can provide a wonderful performance in all that we do then a great thing starts to happen not only in our personal and spiritual life but in our business endeavors as well.

Anything worth doing for a customer is worth doing wonderfully. By this I mean doing with 100% focus and the intention for excellence. This doesn’t have to mean a lot of extra or hard work. In fact, I’ve noticed over the years that the amount energy and effort it takes to bring my performance of any task from good to great is really not a great deal more. It is often the difference of being a 100% present, and not hurrying off in you mind or physically to the next five things you have on your list and taking care of your customer, or boss, or spouse or child etc. I encourage you to remember to strive for “wonderful” in all your undertakings and I believe you’ll be thankful you did.

History of the Boar’s Head Festival

This Boar’s Head Festival is rooted in ancient times when the boar was sovereign of the forest. 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 man used his metal-bound philosophy book to defend himself from the charging animal. 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.”

By 1607, an expansive ceremony was in use at St. John’s College, Cambridge, England. By then the traditional Boar’s Head Festival had grown to include lords, ladies, knights, historical characters, cooks, hunters, and pages. Eventually, shepherds and wise men were added to tell the story of the Nativity.

The ceremony was embellished with additional carols, customs and accoutrements. Mince pie and plum pudding good King Wenceslas and his pages, a yule log lighted from the last year’s ember…all found a place and a symbolic meaning in the procession.

It was this ceremony that was brought to colonial America by the Bouton family who settled in Troy, New York.  One of their descendants became Rector of the Episcopal Church in 1888 and he established the festival, which had meant so much to his family as an annual Christmas observance.

In 1926, the New York Evening Post described the Boar’s Head as a “complex and rich tapestry” of “exquisite melodies.”

Our Church’s Portrayal of the BHF

Every January since 1984 Trinity has celebrated the Epiphany with the Boar’s Head Festival.

Excitement mounts as the townspeople prepare the Sanctuary for the arrival of the beefeaters with the boar’s head. Greeting their guests are the nobleman and his lady. Strains of familiar Christmas carols are heard as the juggler entertains with his amusing antics. Even the winter spirit makes herself known.

The Festival officially begins as a tiny sprite brings into the darkened church a lighted candle that symbolizes the coming of the Light into the world. Representing the Church, the ministers receive the Light, and from its flickering flame raise the lights of the altar and the light of the church itself.

A brass fanfare and the herald announce the entrance of the Boar’s Head Company. (The Beefeaters carry the Boar’s Head). Next come the monks and the waits, all praising the Incarnate Lord. Then follow King Wenceslas, his page and sprites, the woodsmen with the Yule Log and its rider, the shepherds and animals searching for the Christ and the three kings bearing their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

When all have assembled, they kneel in adoration of the Lord of Lords as the church is darkened and the TeDeum window, symbol of the epiphany star, shines over the altar. After the assemblage has recessed, the sprite returns and with the ministers takes the lighted candle forth to show that Christ is The Light to all people.

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