A boar's head was presented at Christmas banquets as early as 15th century England. It was the first course in every Baron's Hall and was brought into the feast with enthusiastic singing. "The Boar's Head Carol" is one of the songs they sang.

It's believed that the boar's head wasn't actually eaten, but that it was a "show dish" . There's reference to only one boar's head at each feast, no matter how many people were present.

The Boar's Head Carol - English Children's Songs - England - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Intro Image

Notes

(1) All of you who are at this feast
(2) The boar's head I offer
Giving praises to the Lord
(3) Let us serve with a song
(4) In the Queens hall

Comments

"The Boar's Head Carol" is also known as "Carol on Bringing in the Boar's Head".

Below you can read the oldest known version of "The Boar's Head Carol". It's from a manuscript from the 15th century and was reprinted in "Reliquiæ Antiquæ".

Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!
The boar's head is armed gay.
The boar's head in hand I bring.
With garlands gay encircling,
I pray you all with me to sing,
With Hey!*

Lords, knights, and squires,
Parsons, priests, and vicars,
The boar's head is the first mess**,
With Hey!*

The boar's head, as I now say,
Takes its leave and goes away,
Goeth after the Twelfth day,
With Hey!*

Then comes in the second course with great pride,
The cranes, the herons, the bitterns, by their side,
To partridges and the plovers, the woodcocks, and the snipe,
With Hey!*

Larks in hot show, for the ladies to pick,
Good drink also, luscious and fine,
Blwet of Allemaine [an herb], romnay, and wine,
With Hey!*

Good bread, ale and wine, I dare well say,
The boar his head with mustard armed so gay,
Furmity for pottage, and venison fine,
And the humbles of the doe and all that ever comes in,
Capons well baked, with the pieces of the roe,
Raisins of currants, with other spices too,
With Hey!*

*"With hey" means you should sing "hey hey hey hey" on that line.
**Dish

You can see the pages for this song from an early manuscript at the following links: 1st page and 2nd page. These pages are from the Porkington Manuscript, a miscellany of the fifteenth century kept in Wales.

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Sheet Music

Sheet Music - The Boar's Head Carol

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