Where: Hallaton, Leicestershire
What is it?
Every Easter Monday the village of Hallaton plays host to a unique set of customs. The Bottle Kicking, a strenuous game similar to rugby, can be traced back over 200 years but is thought to be much older. It begins with a parade through the villages of Medbourne and Hallaton. The parade, which was traditionally held to ‘wake’ the villagers, will begin this year at 9.30am.
At 10.30am there will be a children’s parade, this leads the procession to the church where the ‘bottles’ used in the traditional game are blessed. The locals carry a ‘hare pie’ and three small kegs. Two of the kegs are filled with beer and the other is a dummy keg made from painted wood. The hare pie is cut up and placed in a sack to be later thrown to the crowd for the ‘scramble’ part of the custom. The Hare Pie Scramble is thought to date back to medieval times. The small kegs or ‘bottles’ are taken to the Buttercross (a structure once used for keeping butter and cheese cool when the village was a market town) to be dressed with ribbons.
At 2.45pm the parade moves on to the field where the main bottle kicking game begins. The only rules to bottle kicking are no eye-gouging, no strangling, and no use of weapons. The competition begins with the wooden dummy keg being tossed into the air. Teams then try to move the bottle across two streams, one mile (1.6 km) apart, by any means possible. Each team tries to get the ‘bottle’ over their stream in order to win. The contest is not for the faint-hearted and can get pretty rough!
Particpants who have performed well are rewarded by being hoisted on top of the Buttercross and are then handed one of the kegs or ‘bottles’ to drink from before retiring to the local pub for a few drinks and a bit of banter.