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One awesome way a famous UK university celebrates Christmas

Christmas is a magical time in the UK, and the country has many traditions associated with this holiday, including Christmas cards, mince pies, the Royal Christmas message, attending a church service, and celebrating Boxing Day after Christmas day.

Although most students go away to celebrate Christmas at home, with their families, some UK universities have their own Christmas traditions. For example, the University of Worcester hosts a Christmas Tree Festival at the Cathedral, an exhibition of uniquely designed and decorated Christmas trees, and King's College Cambridge - a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, a service of carols, hymns and readings broadcasted by the BBC radio.

However, another famous UK university, Oxford is home to the most special Christmas experience. The so-called Oxmas takes place on 25 November - exactly one month before Christmas day. Oxford students can have a full-on Oxmas dinner with a carol service, mince pies and mulled wine and see a spectacular light display projected onto the historic buildings of the Bodleian Library. But only the luckiest ones get to experience one of the oldest and quirkiest Oxmas traditions...

Queen's College, Oxford: Boar's Head Carol Ceremony

Each year, a week before Christmas a roast boar's head is served with great panache at Queen's College, Oxford. Just imagine a beautifully decorated Harry-Potteresque dining hall, the trumpet fanfare, the solemn procession headed by a bass soloist singing an old carol and carrying the head of a boar on their shoulders.

The carol written by an anonymous former member of the College is called the "Boar's Head Carol" and goes like this:

The boar’s head in hand bear I,

Bedecked with bays and rosemary;

And I pray you my masters, be merry,

Quot estis in convivio. (As many as are in the feast.)

Caput apri defero

Reddens laudes domino.

(The boar’s head I offer, giving praises to the Lord)

The boar’s head as I understand,

Is the rarest dish in all the land,

Which thus bedecked with a gay garland,

Let us servire cantico. (serve with a song.)

Our steward hath provided this,

In honour of the King of bliss,

Which on this day to be served is,

In Reginensi atrio. (In the Queen’s hall.)

This old tradition is believed to go all the way back to the fourteenth century. It's inspired by a legend about a student of Queen's who happened to be attacked by a wild boar in Shotover Wood, where he had come to study in peace. The student's life was saved by a volume of Aristotle's Logic which he thrust into the boar's open mouth shouting 'Gracca cum est!' ('With the compliments of the Greeks!'). According to the legend, before being defeated, the animal responded with 'Eheu, Graecum est!' ('It's all Greek to me!').

Want to learn about what it's like to study in the UK and how to get into the best universities in the country? LEO International Online School offers a diverse and intensive two–year A-Level programme designed to prepare students for university entry in the United Kingdom. Learn more about this programme and our other courses here, and don't hesitate to contact us at

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