Culinary Christmas - December 20: The Boar's Head Carol

Culinary Christmas - December 20: The Boar's Head Carol

Featured Foods: Wild boar, bays, rosemary

It's the final week of Steve's 25 Days of Christmas Music for 2010! What does our Culinary Christmas have on tap? How about some wild boar?

The Boar's Head Carol, per Wikipedia, "is a macaronic 15th century English Christmas carol that describes the ancient tradition of sacrificing a boar and presenting its head at a Yuletide feast. Of the several extant versions of the carol, the one most usually performed today is based on a version published in 1521 in Wynkyn de Worde's Christmasse Carolles.

According to folklorists 'the boar's head tradition was initiated in all probability on the Isle of Britain by the Anglo-Saxons, although our knowledge of it comes substantially from medieval times…. [In ancient Norse tradition] sacrifice carried the intent of imploring Freyr to show favor to the new year. The boar's head with apple in mouth was carried into the banquet hall on a gold or silver dish to the sounds of trumpets and the songs of minstrels'."

So we've got a really old song about cooking up a wild boar in order to have a new year. Today's version is performed by Steeleye Span, an English folk/rock band, formed in 1969… and still around today. This rendition features an a cappella introduction that runs for a bit before the instrumentation kicks in. If you'd like to follow along with the lyrics, here you go:


The boar's head in hand bear I,
Bedeck'd with bays and rosemary.
Thou I pray you, my masters, be merry
Quot estis in convivio (Translation: As many as are in the feast)

Caput apri defero (Translation: The boar's head I offer)
Reddens laudes Domino (Translation: Giving praises to the Lord)

The boar's head, as I understand,
Is the rarest dish in all this land,
Which thus bedeck'd with a gay garland
Let us servire cantico. (Translation: Let us serve with a song)


Our steward hath provided this
In honour of the King of Bliss;
Which, on this day to be served is
In Reginensi atrio. (Translation: In the Queen's hall)



Are you hungry yet?

Before you head out to get your own cooked boar, drop on by our blog, where we wrap up our look at the State Street Christmas Windows. Detailed photos and commentary on the windows at Marshall Field's, err… Macy's.

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From the Archives: December 20

What's This All About?
New to Steve's 25 Days of Christmas Music? Take some time to read the explanation and introduction!