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.

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

A member of ODK

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 move outside to enjoy the lighting of the Christmas tree.  And no holiday party is complete without a feast.

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

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