B is for Bells, Boar’s Head and Boxing Day – the history interpreter’s historical advent calendar


The association between Christmas and bells, particularly church bells, is a longstanding one. Christian church tradition starts the new day at sunset on Christmas Eve. Services that began after that time would be regarded as the first Christmas Day service and bells would be rung. Some churches ring only the largest bell four times before midnight, followed by all the bells being rung in celebration at midnight.

Boar’s Head

This tradition probably dates from Anglo-Saxon times and is based on Norse sacrifices to the goddess to Freyr, to bless the new year. A boar’s head with an apple in its mouth is the heart of a traditional Medieval banquet. Queen’s College Oxford celebrate the Boar’s Head on the Saturday before Christmas. Apparently a former student escaped from a boar by thrusting a copy of Aristotle down its throat.

Boxing Day

The day to box up excess food to share with the poor. Church alms boxes were often distributed on this day. Modern Christmas ‘boxes’ take the form of money.


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