Boar’s Head: An Oglethorpe Tradition

In December, a roasted boar’s head will make its way through the Conant Performing Arts Center, carried on the shoulders of newly initiated members of Omicron Delta Kappa, an academic honor society.  For almost a century, the Boar’s Head Ceremony has been a staple in Oglethorpe heritage and launches the OU holiday season. Oglethorpe  invites everyone to take part in this lasting tradition.

                                             The History

The inspiration for the Boar’s Head Ceremony is taken from none other than the Oglethorpe family coat of arms, which features boar’s head profiles, symbolizing the strength, courage and vigor of the Oglethorpe family.  The annual Boar’s Head celebration is modeled after an English collegiate ceremony, said to have begun at Queens College in Oxford during the 14th century.

Legend has it that, while wandering the forest of Shotover on Christmas Eve, a student named Copcot took a break from his travel to read Aristotle.  Suddenly, young Copcot was attacked by a wild boar.  The story says that Copcot stood his ground, saying in Greek, “Wisdom conquers even the treacherous beast.” He then rammed the book down the throat of the boar, causing it to choke to death.  Upon returning to campus, Copcot presented the carcass to the college cook, who roasted it—the book and all—for Christmas dinner. It is said that those who ate the flesh of this boar grew wiser with each bite.

A member of ODK
Dr. Irwin Ray, conductor of the Oglethorpe Singers and University Chorale

Today, ODK inductees kiss the boar instead of eating it, with hopes of carrying their newly-acquired knowledge with them to the new year.

What Else to Expect

In addition to the ODK initiation, the Boar’s Head Ceremony includes a live holiday concert from the Oglethorpe Singers and University Chorale.

After the concert, attendees will move outside to enjoy the lighting of the Christmas tree.  And no holiday party is complete without a feast. In 2010, the international-themed holiday party that followed the tree lighting featured food and beverages from different regions around the world.

4 thoughts on “Boar’s Head: An Oglethorpe Tradition

  1. I graduated from O. U. in 1962, with a B.A. in Psychology. While an undergraduate at O. U. I was a member and then President of the Boar’s Head honorary society. Back then, I think we did not have to kiss the boar’s head. I am glad. I would not relish kissing it, but probably would have if I had to. Our ceremony, instead, involved Mr. Wendell Brown, an English professor, playing an old English song on the recorder, about the bringing in of the boar’s head. The words to the song went like this: “The boar’s head is coming in, da da da da da da da da.”

    In case you are curious, after getting my B.A., I went on to the University of Georgia where I got a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. I am now Associate Professor of Psychology at University of Texas-Pan American, a Hispanic-serving university in Edinburg, TX 78539-2999. We have more Mexican-American students here than in any college in the nation.

    I do not tell people about my Boar’s Head membership/Presidency, but perhaps I should. It does not hurt to brag a little now and then, does it?

  2. I also was a Boar’s head Scholastic Honor Society President. One of my fondest memories of Oglethorpe was hosting the Boar’s head ceremony of 1966. The ceremony was held in Phoebe Hearst Hall, with the grand staircase and the old fireplace for backdrop. It was “standing room only” for the audience–there was no room for chairs that night!! Wendell brown, our sponsor that year, along with the additional faculty help of Robert Loftin, said that that year’s event was “the best that we’ve ever had” at that time. I wish that he could have been present at our 2010 Evening of Holiday Enchantment–he would have said exactly the same thing!!–Tom Reilly ’67

  3. Had a blast. Great tradition. However, consider: Get off work early. Drive. Watch cool ceremony, pig kissing, etc. Watch skit, chorus, etc. Then white bread, white cheese, and white jelly beans? really? We were starving. It had been a long danm time since lunch. Next time maybe cauliflower, it’s white. Chicken, navy beans, potatoes, etc. There is a lot of inexpensive white food that would have been really nice. And you know we would have paid for it. Again.

  4. I am glad you had fun at Boar’s Head events and am sorry to hear the food was not to your satisfaction. I hope you saw that food was available in the Dining Hall, Talmage, Grenwald, and the TV Lounge. Also, we have started a new tradition for our students: a large student banquet was held as a dinner from 4:30pm – 6:30pm, so they were definitely able to eat a full meal before the 9:00pm party time.

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