Carols and The Boar’s Head
I am a vegetarian, so some aspects of historical research make me squeamish, but not so squeamish that I do not delve into the past.
Swine were sacred to the Vikings who sacrificed a boar to their god Frey. Decorated with garlands, an apple in its mouth, the boar’s head was served by the Norseman.
The Britons and Anglo Saxons sacrificed animals, usually oxen, so in spite of the pagan origins it was not long before the tradition of serving a boar’s head became a custom at Christmas.
At Queen’s College Oxford, a boar’s head was served on the last Saturday before Christmas accompanied by a secular carol, which began:
“The boar’s head in hand bear I,
Bedecked with bays and rosemary;
And I pray you my masters be merry;
Today, a turkey is as important a part of the Christmas meal as the boar’s head was to pagans and mediaeval Christians. However, as a vegetarian, my sympathy is with the slaughtered boars and turkeys. Perhaps I should find time to write a carol in praise of a vegetarian feast.