The Boar's Head Christmas Festival

The popular Boar’s Head Festival, presented by many churches across the nation during the Christmas season, has a powerful message. It not only tells the story of Christ as Christmas is celebrated in the Middle Ages manor of King Wenceslas, but it also symbolizes why Christ came: To defeat the devil. The boar was a symbol of the devil and all evil. When his head is presented to the King, it says that the devil (and all evil) has been killed.

Zion Lutheran Church of Painesville, Ohio will host the Boar’s Head Christmas Festival of Lake County as a gift from Zion Lutheran, St. Paul's Lutheran and other Lutheran churches in our area to the surrounding community. The presentation involves some 90+ actors, plus many more who work behind the scenes. The cooperating congregations see this presentation as an outreach to the community and do not charge for reservations, although a free will offering is taken at the conclusion of the play.

Zion’s church sanctuary will be transformed into the English manor of King Wenceslas. The presentation portrays a celebration of Christmas that includes beefeaters, woodsmen, lords and ladies, cooks and servants, a knight, the page and peasant, court dancers and servants. After the boar’s head is announced, the bringing in of the Yule log climaxes the manor celebration. A brass choir, the Lake Erie College flute choir, a bagpiper, and the mighty pipe organ of Zion will join the Boar's Head choir in celebrating this grand occasion.

The manor quiets down and the audience is then transported to Bethlehem. The angel announces our dear Savior's birth to the shepherds. The wise men travel from the east with their gifts. As they all gather at the manger, the guests of the manor join them to worship the Kings of kings that has come to set man free from the tyranny of the devil.

As the festival closes, the small Yule Sprite will carry a lighted candle, the “Light of Christ,” out of the sanctuary into a world waiting in darkness. After the performance, the audience is invited to a reception with cookies and punch.

The 2013 Christmas Festival will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 3rd 6:30 pm; Friday, December 6th at 7:30 and Saturday, December 7th at 4 & 7:30. Be sure make the Christmas Festival part of your preparation for Christmas this year.

A special thank you goes out to Our Shepherd Lutheran School and St. Paul's Lutheran Church for the many wonderful volunteers that make this celebration of our dear Savior's birth such a wonderful event.

New Herald Article

Tuesday, December 9, 2008 11:07 AM EST
By Janet Podolak

Lutherans and others from several Northeast Ohio churches will take to the Zion Lutheran Church sanctuary in Painesville on Tuesday for the dress rehearsal of the second annual Boar's Head Festival.Tickets for the three performances, set for Friday and Dec. 13, already have been spoken for, but the two-hour dress rehearsal will be the real thing — complete with a trophy boar's head that Zion Lutheran member Carl Brown shot in Montana. The dress rehearsal begins at 6:30 p.m.

Staging the two-hour performance, complete with 100 pages of music, a bagpiper, flute choir, beefeaters, woodsmen, lords and ladies, Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus and 80-some other cast members is a daunting task.Director Jim Koscik began the work in January, when the buzz from the first Boar's Head Festival decreed it the highlight of the 2007 holiday season.

"We expect 1,250 people this year for three performances," Koscik said. "Tickets went so quickly after they were announced that we added a third performance, and that one filled, too."The performances are free, but a good-will offering is collected to help meet expenses.

"It's our outreach to the community," Koscik said.Zion Lutheran can seat between 425 and 450 people for each performance.

Rooted in legends of ancient times, the Boars Head Feast continues to be performed at Queen's College in Oxford, England, where it began in 1340. Ferocious wild boars were a menace and hunted as a public enemy in the forests around early Rome. As Christianity became established the boar became the personification of evil. Its death and the presentation to the king of its head on a platter was the triumph of Christ over the devil."It began at a time when most people were illiterate and told the story of Christmas in a dramatic and symbolic way that people could understand," said Koscik, who also teaches fifth grade at Our Shepherd Lutheran School in Painesville.

Seamstress extraordinaire Barb Riley, with help from others from the congregations of Zion and St. Paul's Lutheran churches, has worked since spring on the costumes."If you include the greeters and reception committee, that's about 125 costumes," she said."We use modern fabrics but keep the costumes true to the Medieval and Bethlehem time periods," she said.Because costumes need to be passed down from one year to the next, one of the biggest challenges for the seamstresses is adjusting them so they can fit different actors."We got maybe 25 percent of our costume pieces on eBay," she said. "A lot of people do medieval re-enactments, so period costumes are not all that hard to find."Her colleague Nancy McCormick took charge of making the elaborate, red Beefeaters costumes, creating the patterns with paper and bed sheets from photos of Beefeaters standing guard at the Tower of London."I used yards and yard of material and gold and black braid," she said."People donated coupons so we could get the fabric we needed at Joanne's Fabrics."Riley made the Beefeaters collars and hats.

The story, which is told entirely in music, portrays a medieval celebration of Christmas at the English manor house of King Wenceslas, A brass choir, the Lake Erie College flute choir, a bagpiper and the church's pipe organ join the Boar's Head Choir in celebrating arrival of the boar's head and a giant Yule log.Organist Bill Patrick plays throughout, and audience members sometimes join the choirs for the singing. Father-son pastors, Gerald and Mark Matzke, who are widely known locally for their fine singing voices, both have solo parts in the Boar's Head production. Gerald, pastor of Zion, plays the angel Gabriel to announce the birth of Jesus in the Bethlehem scene. Mark, pastor of St.Paul Lutheran Church in Painesville Township, sings the part of the Herald.Also participating are members of St. John's Lutheran in Geneva, Peace Lutheran in Chardon, and a few other churches.

The congregation is meant to join the various choirs when they see hymns in bold face, Koscik said.At several points during the two-hour production, players wander among those seated to watch."At the very end, the entire court, the King, the brass and choirs all come back and bow to the Baby Jesus. Everyone sings 'O Come All Ye Faithful.' It always give me the chills," Koscik said.
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Feature Article

Check out the front page of Saturday, December 6th Religion section of the News Herald.

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