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The Boar's Head and Yule Log Festival is a Hartford tradition of spectacle and hope

For 56 years, Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford has taken Christmas pageants to a whole new level. Their annual Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival, which runs this weekend, is a feast for the ears and eyes, blending sacred and secular elements.

“It is meant to mimic a medieval festival that would have happened at a large manor house, in Renaissance England,” said Jack Pott, producer of the festival. ”We're inviting you in from the streets, into the manor house for this feast, basically. And then there's a wonderful procession with lords, and ladies, and ladies-in-waiting, and cooks and artists, and flower girls and cookie girls, and woodsmen. The king and queen enter to their own music, with great fanfare.”

There are about 150 to 170 performers for the festival — dancers, musicians, and actors — all in costume, Pott said. Another trademark of the festival is live animals: a goose, chickens, a horse, lama and a number of sheep. There’s even a camel.

“When the three wise men arrive in the church, there's a camel that comes in with them, there’s a llama that comes in with them,” Pott said. “There's a lot of animals down there at this point, plus a full entourage of people in costume, as everyone comes in to pay homage to the newborn king.”

The sheer spectacle of the Boar’s Head and Yule Log festival is what brings people back year after year. But Jack Pott said there is an important message behind the pomp and ceremony.

“As a faith community, we realize very clearly that we live in a broken world. And there are people who love, who need to hear a message of hope,” Pott said. “That’s really what this brings.”

Performances are Saturday, Jan. 6, at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., and Sunday, Jan. 7, at 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. Despite the chance of a winter storm on Saturday night into Sunday, Pott said the show will go on as planned.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.