The Boar's Head Festival we know today originated at Queen's College, Oxford, England in 1340. This ceremony was brought to colonial America near Troy, New York by persecuted French Huguenot Protestants who had learned this custom while exiled in England. In 1888 a descendent established this ceremony at the Hoosac Episcopal School. Here Rev. Nelson Burroughs first saw it. He brought it to Cincinnati when he was called to be the Rector of Christ Church in 1939 and gave it a church setting. He was Boar's Head festival's director from 1940 to 1948."I must tell you that the first celebration of the Boar's Head was really awfully funny," said Bishop Burroughs in a 1994 interview.
The Rt. Rev. Nelson Marigold Burroughs, seventh Bishop of Ohio, Rector of Christ Church, 1939-1949
The Hoosac School still exists in Hoosick Falls, NY
Suzann Parker Leist, photo
"We tried to make some costumes but didn't have time to make all of them," said the bishop. "When the costume rental agency sent us presumably the Boar's Head costumes, they turned out to be outfits from the Prince of Pilsen - a drinking company!"
Boar's Head festival 1940 Cast and Staff, the first service.
At first, following the English custom, there were only men and boys in the cast, fifty in all. Consequently, in the war years of 1945 and 1946 the ceremony was reduced to a homily with the traditional music. From 1950 to 1956, while a new church was being built, the festival was held in the Masonic Temple. When the new church opened in 1957, the Boar's Head processions were expanded to accommodate different aisles and entrances.
Women joined the ceremony in 1973, opening up new possibilities for 14th-century historical characters and costumes.
The Boar's Head festival has evolved from a light and mellow celebration into a profoundly moving experience. Today, over 350 persons come together in the form of cast, orchestra, choir, and backstage helpers to present Christ Church Cathedral's gift to the city at Christmastide.
1. Morris, J. W. (1967). Christ Church Cincinnati 1817-1967 , Cincinnati, OH: the Episcopal Society of Christ Church
2. "The Rt. Rev. Nelson Marigold Burroughs dies at 99", Interchange March 1999, Retrieved 2014-9-20.