Sunday, December 06, 2009

Boar's Head and other Delights

This past week has been busy with Christmas parties as well as the final push by our contractor to complete the kitchen renovations. December is racing along and I have been too busy to enjoy the simple pleasures of the season. Today we took time on a lovely sunny afternoon to visit the annual Christkindl Market at the city hall. The temperatures were just around freezing and with the sun, the weather was perfect for the outdoor vendors and performers.

Last year I wrote about Organ Grinder Klaus. He happened to read the post and emailed me asking if I would introduce myself the next time he was in town. I talked to him as he took a break from his music and found that we share some things in common. He lives in the town where my parents grew up and where I went to school for two years. He loves trails and nature and works hard lobbying for safe walking and bike trails for students and other users. Klaus is a regular at this Christmas market and a popular performer.

Many Christmas traditions are derived from pagan and Christian elements which are combined in this ancient solstice celebration. Choirs sang carols and dancers from the local German clubs performed in colourful costumes. Each year there is a food vendor who serves roasted pork. All that was left near closing time on Sunday afternoon was the head of the unfortunate animal. It reminded me of the Boar's Head Carol and the ancient Yule tradition of the Boar's Head Feast which is still celebrated today.

We had potato pancakes and applesauce instead...

"The Boar's Head is probably the oldest continuing festival of the Christmas season. This pageant is rooted in the 1300's when the boar was sovereign of the forest. A ferocious beast and menace to humans it was hunted as a public enemy. 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 boar's head in hand bear I
Bedecked with bays and rosemary .
I pray you, my masters, be merry
Quot estis in convivio.
(howsoever many are at the feast)
Caput apri defero,
(I bring the boar's head)
Reddens laudes Domino.
(rendering praises to the Lord)


  1. Does the boar's head get eaten?
    The Chinese do, and I was surprised an Australian chef cooked a pig's cheek.

  2. What a great tradition, though, like you, I'd... err... skip the boar's head! ;c)

  3. Although I suppose I don't learn something new every day, today I did.

  4. Ruth--I grew up singing "The boar's head in hand I bring, bedecked with bay and rosemary..."
    Now, I shudder when I see an animal head thus roasted.
    A fun post to read.

  5. What a nice way to truly enjoy the holiday atmosphere. The roast pork sounds good, but the head could go elsewhere. Thanks for the info on the Boar's head, I'd never heard of that.

  6. Some nice images you have here of the festivities. I like that you took the time to chat up the organ grinder fellow. I was very taken by his personality. Although, i did not approach him, or take any pictures of him. I was busy with the Grand Philharmonic's event. I wish the Christkindl Market was on longer, a couple of weeks at least, like in Germany. But, it's better this than nothing :)

  7. What a quaint little festival. Is it still on and for how long?

    I don't even know if I could eat any part of the pig once I see the head. That is nasty, but I guess in some cultures it's the way of life. Different cultures and ways sure what makes the world an interesting place. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Oh-You are talking about an actual boar's head. Around my area boar's head usually refers to a high quality brand of deli meats.I don't think I'd want to eat the boar's head-wouldn't want to make a pig out of myself.-Thanks for telling us about the interesting tradition and history.

  9. Looks like you had a great time at the outdoor festival. I can't believe there are still organ-grinders around. I thought they were all gone - long ago!

    Interesting post about ancient customs. I think I'll skip the boar's head too. But it does look exotic!

  10. Ann- I have no idea what happen to this pig head. The Mennonites here make "head cheese" and sell it at the market. It is a jellied cold cut with the meat from the head.

    Jayne- we are too far removed from the farm I think...

    AC- I learned something new with this post too... isn't blogging great!

    KGmom- I have never heard this carol sung. I just listened to it on YouTube and it is unfamiliar.

    Gaelyn- This market is one of my favourite local Christmas places

    Larry- Thanks for visiting and commenting. Nice to meet another local blogger.

    Cheryl- The market is just for four days and is now over. Thanks for commenting

    Larry- lol, you are quite the punster. This was for real...what really bothers me is the teeth

    Wendy- Klaus is a very authentic organ grinder, but his monkey is stuffed ;-)

  11. I love winter festivals.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.