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Friday, November 30, 2007

Boar's Head Festival - Concordia University, Ann Arbor, MI

Tonight, my family attended the annual Boar's Head Festival at Julie and my alma mater, Concordia University in Ann Arbor, MI. Back in the olden days, when we were students, Julie sang in the choir and I wore stockings and carried a spear. Neither of us had been to the Boar's Head Festival since we graduated 16 years ago. What a joy it was to be back!

Pictured to the left is Dr. Neil Skov who has been playing the part of King Wenceslaus at least since, oh... around the invention of dirt. Not really. But for a long time. And he OWNS that part baby!

One of my all-time favorite carols is Good King Wenceslaus. And I blame Skov. I'm not embarrassed to say that I tear up everytime. E-v-e-r-y T-i-m-e!! It moves me and this is because of those years participating in the B's Head Fest.

If you don't know the song, it's about a king who looks out on a bitter wintry day and spies a peasant collecting twigs in the weather. He takes pity on the poor soul and directs his young page to "Bring me flesh and bring me wine!" And he determines to take food and kindling out into the snow to the unfortunate subject.

Following custom, the little servant walks in front of the king. The more important person always walks behind the less important. But the snow is deep and wind is battering the little page so he can hardly make another move. The good king tells the boy to walk behind him and step in the footprints he makes. The king then blocks the wind and moves the snow so the boy can keep up, all so that they can bring charity to a poor, weak subject.

The reason this always gets me - other than Skov's powerful portrayal - is that it is deeply moving to see a strong, powerful person stooping to help someone much weaker than himself. In fact, I cannot think of any greater sign of strength than humbling oneself to serve another.

We are the cold, naked, famished peasant reaching for twigs in the snow. God is the king who has compassion on us. And God reaches into our suffering, in Christ, to bring us relief. What a beautiful image of the gospel.

So who can answer why Good King Wenceslaus is a Christmas carol when it never mentions jesus and has no reference to the nativity story?

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Anonymous said...

John Mason Neale wrote this carol in 1853 as part of a collection of songs for children, He never visted Bohemia, but he heard of the King by soliders who returned from eastern Europe. He set the tale to teach children about the virtue of generosity. St. Stephens feast day was celebrated on the 26 of Dec.,which is why it became a Christmas Carol.
Thanks for helping me learn new things. A. Sandra
I hope this is the answer, if not let us know.

Kathy Stanis said...

Dear Pastor,
I too, hold a special place in my heart for the Boar's Head Festival. For me, the presentation and emotion that is experienced really sets the stage for the Advent Season. Even reading your article brought me chills and tears at the mention of this annual event. My sister and I both played parts in the B-Festival while we were students at Concordia, Ann Arbor. Also, I believe every student, professor, and ticket holder who has ever participated in the "festival" during the past thirty years would quickly agree with you...Prof. Skov OWNS the part. Although we now must all wait another year for the "festival" to take place, if anyone reading this has never gone to see it...make your hotel reservations now and order your tickets in September...because each show is always SOLD OUT immediately! And Pastor, on a personal note...thanks for bringing a smile to my face during a difficult time.
Love, Kathy Stanis

Peter said...

I, too, love a good Madridgal Feast. I would also encourage you to try out the Boar's Head Festival at Plymouth Congregational Church here in dear old Fort Wayne. It's a wonderful congregational tradition, with many of the same folks appearing year after year. It's fun, and, as you say, moving. Many of the old carols are sung. What's more, it takes place AFTER Christmas. This is good, as many liturgical churches have no Christmas before Christmas (you know, Advent), and then rush headlong into Epiphany. And Christmas is forgotten as suddenly as it appears.

susan opel said...

Hmmmm, I seem to recall being there when your wife sang in the choir (with me) and you wore those tights! Good times all around.

I saw a somewhat inferior Boar's Head Festival about a week ago, and I was rather irritated by the King. He just wasn't Neil Skov! And I missed Amolsch as the little dude that opens it all up.

So, hello, Stiegemeyers! I have a blog, too, and would love it if you stopped by!

Anonymous said...

Pastor in tights ... now there's a visual! Now I'm smiling along with Kathy! Judy P in Pgh

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