Wednesday, Nov. 28 at 7 p.m. marked the 73rd Annual Boar’s Head Dinner. A staple of UR’s fall semester, I was really excited to attend it for the first time. The popularity of the event is truly inarguable; the tickets went on sale the week before Thanksgiving break, I got on line 40 minutes before they went on sale and waited for approximately an hour before actually holding them in my hands.
Walking into Douglass Dining Hall on the night of the event, it definitely had a different feel. The room was shifted around, filled with long, clothed tables, and each seat was set with china plates, glasses, silverware, cloth napkins and souvenir mugs that read “73rd Annual Boar’s Head Dinner” on one side and had the University’s new logo imprinted on the other. The room was dimmed, lit only by tall, white candles that were placed down each table creating a serene setting. I could tell that the night would prove to be really special.
On each table there were booklets that laid out the events of the evening and provided historical information about the feast: “The legendary account of the observance is that a scholar of the College, while walking and reading in a forest near Oxford, was attacked by a wild boar. The undergraduate saved his life by thrusting his volume of Aristotle down the throat of the brute, which promptly choked on the philosophy. The student brought back the head in triumph and the College instituted the custom in gratitude for his escape.” While this history sounds humorous, it is deeply significant to the UR community as it has barred the test of time and is still enjoyed today.
The festivities began with several introductions of faculty members and administrators that were being honored. Each name was called by one of the two chairs of the dinner, seniors Nazmia Alqadi and Davi Keiser. Once all were seated, the feast began. The waiters and waitresses – members of the Yellowjackets, the Midnight Ramblers, Vocal Point, After Hours and Off Broadway On Campus – came out in a square formation, in style of the medieval dance called the carble, according to the booklet. Traditionally, the wait-staff members sing a carol before they serve each course. They sang “Gloucestershire Wassail” for the Soup Procession, “The Boar’s Head Carol” for the Main Procession and the “Figgy Pudding Song” for the Pudding Procession. Each was well-sung, and I was happy that we got to hear a mini-concert as the evening progressed. Four members of the Strong Jugglers further enhanced the entertainment. Dressed as jesters, they performed throughout the evening while people ate and conversed.
Of course, everyone wants to know how the food was, and I’ll be the one to tell you that it was good. The main course included pork roast Normandy, roasted turkey breast, apple stuffing, mashed potatoes and baby carrots. All were served on big plates that were passed around each table family-style, and this was fun because it created a sense of unity. There were also pitchers of apple cider and water as drinks. It was awesome eating some great-tasting food with friends. While the food was excellent, there was certainly more that made the night special. The first highlight of the evening for me was the “Reading of the Boar.” Each year a faculty adviser whom is popular with students in and out of the classroom is given the opportunity to give the reading with his own unique spin. This year, Professor of Religion and Classics Anthea Butler spoke. Her rendition of the boar’s head tale was entertaining at first, but it wasn’t until she told the D.J. to “Hit it!” that the fun began. A strong bass started coming out of speakers around the room and Butler started rapping about the boar’s head and its significance. I was shocked. A professor rapping in the middle of a traditional feast that has been around for 73 years was not something I think many people expected. But once that initial shock subsided, everyone got into it. She really made the tradition
her own and people gave her a standing ovation. It truly was a spectacle.
The last portion of the evening was carol singing, led by University Vice President Paul Burgett. Entertainingly finding each pitch, we all sang “Deck the Halls,” “Let It Snow,” “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph.” This was a highlight of the evening because although these were Christmas songs, it didn’t matter what your religious background was. The lyrics were included in each booklet and everyone participated together in welcoming the holidays.
Around 9:15, the evening came to a close. Looking around, I saw students and faculty smiling and laughing as they pulled on their coats and winter gear to brave the cold weather outside. With souvenir mugs in their hands and lots of food in their stomachs, they exited the transformed dining hall. For all of you who missed it, I recommend attending the Boar’s Head Dinner in 2008. A tranquil atmosphere and great food was enjoyed by all, and who knows who will give the “Reading of the Boar” next year?
Siegel is a member of the class of 2010.