Communities everywhere have planned events for the anticlimax of Christmas; with New Year’s Day yet to go, the kids are out of school and looking to make gingerbread houses – well, their parents are looking to make gingerbread houses…but is there anything more original than that to do? You bet’cha! It seems that in the flickering embers of 2009, with a fresh "Yule log" set out for 2010, I am finally, finally going to take my family to the Boar’s Head Festival in West Palm Beach.
I found out about Bethesda By the Sea’s longstanding annual tradition about two years ago, when, after a round of googling for something free, fun and pretty to see, I turned up the name of this Catholic Cathedral and its impressive, to say the least, sanctuary garden. The church is maybe a $7 cab ride from the heart of downtown, just over the Intercoastal bridge and blocks over from streets speckled in more romantic than usual shadows of royal palms, with names like “Cocaunut” Row and Flagler’s White Hall. You’ll also find the famous Breakers Hotel on the way, a shame only in the sense that if were you on your way to church, donations for the usher are spent 100 different ways before you get there.
But I digress, the church is GORGEOUS, and I take visiting relatives there a lot. The first time I saw it, the weather was fine, the fish in the pond were hungry and when we parked the stroller to have a better look, we were trying not to sneeze for all the blossoms. A rectory worker with a wheelbarrow was leaving the scene of a roped off and partially covered Nativity Scene. Christmas was long over, and he wanted to chat with us about how happy he was working at Bethesda; in fact, he was celebrating on this very day, his 27th anniversary with the church, and it just happened to be my little daughter’s birthday that April morning too. He asked us if we’d been to the Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival back in January.
As he began to describe what it was, I was more roped in than the Nativity scene. It sounded amazing! The festival is celebrated every Epiphany, on the 5th or 6th of January, a.k.a. “The Twelfth Day of Christmas” and has all the spectacle of a Renaissance Fair. There are beefeaters, pipe players, lords and ladies reenacting the original Festival in the Oxford England days of the late 1300’s – when legend has it, a scholar on his way home from midnight mass encountered an enormous, terrifying boar, killing it and saving his life by ramming a metal bound book of Aristotle down its throat.
Now, I doubt the festival enacts THAT, but I know they copy the procession of figs, flags, evergreen and holly, as they carry a platter born feast in a big parade and sing Christmas carols, and if you knew how lovely and "period perfect" these sanctuary grounds are, you’d be excited to attend this year’s performance at 4:30 on January 3rd. Save some mince pies and plum pudding for me!
Bethesda by the Sea Church
141 South County Road
Palm Beach, FL 33480-6135