A pleasant sort of music


Though we’re not in a hurry, it’s taking a while for my wife and me to get through the holiday season.  But I think—think—we may have ended our own Christmas season Jan. 5 with The Boar’s Head & Yule Log Festival at University Christian Church way over in Fort Worth.


So, then, what is The Boar’s Head & Yule Log Festival?  It is the culmination of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” with joyous celebration of the Nativity modeled after Medieval observances that started in the 1300s.  It is a curious thing: legend has it, a student of Oxford University was strolling through the forest reading a collection of Aristotle’s writings when a wild boar charged out of the woods, bent on his destruction.  Thinking quickly, the student used the volume as a weapon.  The rampaging boar had his mouth open, and somehow or other, the student jammed it in the creature’s throat!  The hog thought about this turn of events a few moments, and decided to die choking on Aristotle.

Well—I hope you will pardon me if I’m somewhat skeptical about this account.  I can easily enough imagine a hog being unable to swallow Nietzsche or Hume, but Aristotle?  Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are the forefathers of Western philosophy.  Anything the hog swallowed written by them would make him a better hog, but perhaps he was too far gone to rehabilitated.

Killing a hog with a book was worth bragging about, and the student told his friends.  They retrieved the still-fresh carcass, took it back to the dorm to barbeque, used the head for souse, and everybody except the boar had a good time at the feast.  This perhaps would have been enough for some of the Oxford students, but then, somebody realized more mileage could be gotten out of the boar killer’s adventure:

In that day, wild boars were reviled, feared, hated and regarded as the embodiment of evil by most people.  Aristotle, on the other hand, was regarded highly, a wise and moral philosopher whose writings not only educated, but also enlightened his readers.  Boars are evil; wisdom is good; therefore, destroy evil with good!—or something like that.  I do not know if this reasoning increased the sale of Aristotle’s books, and if it did, it didn’t make feeding them to rampaging boars any easier; but it did provide an excuse for adding a joyous, giddy celebration for Yuletide frolickers.  Considering how dreary the medieval age was, any opportunity to embrace merriment is excusable.

Merriment seems to be the key word, here.  I do not know to what extremes Yuletide (or “Christmastide”, if you prefer) went to in medieval times, but I do know the Boar’s Head & Yule Log Festival I attended was fun.  It was loaded with symbolic things, too, traditions hauled in from the 13th or 14th centuries: There were the Beefeaters, the King’s ceremonial guards; a Yule sprite comes and lights a candle which represents Christ, the Light of the World; the Boar’s head is brought in, and though it looked impressive, it was a counterfeit; there were sprites and faeries, maidens and barefoot shepherds, a surplus of worshipping kings, heralding angels that were not the wimpy variety found in some holiday programs, but the strong sort, the kind you’d want by you if you were confronting wild boars or other powers of darkness; children skipped and frolicked down the aisle, and one even did somersaults—friends, these people were outrageously happy that Jesus Christ the Savior was born!  True, these persons were performers.  Maybe they were not like that off-stage, but can’t we learn something from them?  Namely, that it’s all right to rejoice in any and all of the Father’s Blessings! 

But I need to get to the subject of this week’s column, “A Pleasant Sort of Music”.  When we parked for the event, I noticed as a couple unloaded a herd of children from their van.  There was nothing surprising about this.  My wife and I went inside the church, and to ensure our seating, we were an hour early.  Within a few minutes, the family we had seen in the parking lot sat in the pew right behind us, filling it up.  It was a large family—Mom and Dad, of course, and their nine children.      

Naturally, I wondered how this was going to go.  The children ranged in age from a year or so to 13 or 14, each one simply but nicely dressed, clean and well-behaved.  I overheard the father’s explanation to one of the ushers that he had been attending the Boar’s Head festival for years, and wanted to share the experience with his children.

The chattering of these children, their innocent questions and comments, their fascination with the costumed characters created the pleasant music that I will remember long after memories of the celebration have faded.  I caught some of their names: Henry, Sophie, George, Teddy, but that was it.  When everything was over, my wife and I told the parents how wonderful we thought their children were.  Unnecessarily, the parents apologized for the children’s noise and restlessness, but like I said: to us, it was music.

So, tell me: am I getting old, sentimental and senile?  Or has it merely taken me 60 years to begin to realize what real beauty is?  Your thoughts are welcome. Please comment below.

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Craig Hall
Publisher, writer, photographer and teacher.