Let us eat, and be merry.@Luke 15:23
illustration
Bringing in the Boar’s Head
J. Gilbert, 1855

From Christ­masse Ca­rolles (Lon­don: Wyn­kyn de Worde, 1521). This is a mac­a­ron­ic 15th Cen­tu­ry Eng­lish Christ­mas ca­rol des­crib­ing the an­cient tra­di­tion of sac­ri­fic­ing a boar and pre­sent­ing its head at a Yule­tide feast. The Boar’s Head Feast con­tin­ues at Queen’s Col­lege at Ox­ford Un­i­ver­sity. Will­iam Henry Husk (1814–1887), Lib­rar­i­an to the Sac­red Har­mon­ic So­ci­e­ty, writes about the tra­di­tion in his 1868 Songs of the Na­ti­vi­ty Be­ing Christ­mas Ca­rols, An­cient and Mod­ern:

Queen’s Col­lege cel­e­brates the tra­di­tion by three chefs bring­ing a boar’s head in­to the hall, with a pro­ces­sion of a so­lo sing­er who sings the first verse, ac­comp­an­ied by torch bear­ers and fol­lowed by a choir. The pro­ces­sion stops dur­ing vers­es and walks dur­ing the chorus. The head is placed on the high ta­ble, and the Pro­vost dis­trib­utes the herbs to the choir and the or­ange from the boar’s mouth to the so­lo sing­er.

Med­ie­val ca­rol (🔊 pdf nwc).

Where an am­us­ing tra­di­tion for­mer­ly cur­rent in Ox­ford con­cern­ing the boar’s head cus­tom, which rep­re­sent­ed that us­age as a com­mem­o­ra­tion of an act of val­our per­formed by a stu­dent of the col­lege, who, while walk­ing in the neigh­bour­ing for­est of Shot­ov­er and read­ing Ar­is­tot­le, was sud­den­ly at­tacked by a wild boar. The fur­i­ous beast came open-mouthed up­on the youth, who, how­ev­er, ve­ry cour­age­ous­ly, and with a hap­py pres­ence of mind, thrust the vol­ume he was read­ing down the boar’s throat, cry­ing, Græ­cum est, [With comp­li­ments of the Greeks] and fair­ly choked the sav­age with the sage.

Chorus

Caput apri defero, 1
Reddens laudes Domino! 2

The Bore’s Heed in hande bryng I
With garlans gay and rosmary.
And I pray you all sing merely.
Qui estis in convivio! 3

Chorus

The Bore’s Heed, as I understande
Is the chefe servyce in this lande;
Loke, wherever it be fande
Servite cum cantico! 4

Chorus

Our stewarde hath provided this,
In honour of the King of Bliss;
Which on this day to be servèd is,
In Regimensi Atrio! 5

Chorus

1The boar’s head I offer

2Giving praises to the Lord

3As many as are in the feast

4Let us serve with a song

5In the Queen’s hall