The Boar's Head and Yule Log Pageant is one of the oldest and grandest traditions of Hoosac School. The annual production involves all of Hoosac's students and faculty.
"After experiencing one performance of this show with all of Hoosac's students in their jeweled and feathered Elizabethan finery, you know that it's not just another Christmas play," says Dean Foster, the current headmaster.
Hoosac held its first Boar's Head and Yule Log in 1892. Every year since students work hard to make it production the best yet.
But Hoosac's budding singers and actors have some strong competition from the past — well known actor, the late Burgess Meredith, member of the class of 1926, played the lead role when he was a student.
Divided into two parts, the celebration begins with the Boar's Head carol representing the gathering of Elizabethan gentry at the manor house to celebrate the birth of Christ. A solemn procession heralds the entrance of guests bearing food for the feast. In the place of honor is the boar's head, decorated with flags representing the Holy Roman Empire in the 16th century and symbolizing the conquest of good over evil.
The Shepherds, seeking the newborn child of Mary, enter with a song, led by the voice of the Angel, usually a soloist. Then the Three Kings sing and offer their gifts to the newborn Christ--gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Next Saint Stephen declares his loyalty to the child in Bethlehem, whereupon King Herod has him condemned. Finally, the carol between King Wenceslas and his page reminds us of the importance of caring for the less fortunate.
A medieval banquet is served during intermission in Memorial Dining Hall, a vaulted, cathedral-like structure with flags lining the rafters. The flags represent the home countries of students who have attended Hoosac during the past 126 years.
A shift in mood takes place in the second act when the revels begin, and the country folk join the gentry in games and celebration. To start the revelry, Father Christmas and the sprites (played by an assortment of local and faculty children) bring in the Yule Log, which is lit with a torch made from last year's embers. A hush falls over the audience as the house lights go out and the Jester (whose identity is kept from the entire community until the first performance) enters, declaring himself the "Lord of Misrule."
Following the Jester, the Waits sing and dance while proclaiming "love and joy" for all. Then the Mummers Play, a Yule Log favorite, is performed. It is based on a medieval skit of St. George's epic adventures: slaying a dragon, an evil knight, and a giant, in that order. Next, the Sword Dancers entertain with a traditional, ritualized dance and exciting duel. Finally, the Troubadours close out the individual performances with a cheerful plea to let them join the party!
The harmonious sound of the chorus and the sight of the authentic costumes complete the illusion that onlookers have been transported into the realms and customs of other days. The evening closes with a few last carols and a joyous "Merry Christmas" to the audience.