Where: Hallaton, Leicestershire
What is it?
Every Easter Monday the village of Hallaton plays host to a unique set of customs known as Bottle Kicking and the Hare Pie Scramble.
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, which was traditionally intended to ‘wake’ the villagers. This is then followed by a children’s parade, which leads to the church where the ‘bottles’ (small kegs), used in the traditional bottle kicking game, are blessed. The locals carry a ‘hare pie’, which is cut up and placed in a sack to be later thrown to the crowd for the Hare Pie Scramble, the second of Hallaton’s unique customs. The hare pie scramble is thought to date back to medieval times.
The three 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. Two of the kegs are filled with beer and the other is a dummy keg made from painted wood, which is used for the game.
During the afternoon, 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 or ‘bottle’ being tossed into the air. Teams then try to move the bottle across two streams, which are one mile (1.6km) 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!
Participants who have performed well are rewarded with a drink from one of the beer kegs and are hoisted on top of the Buttercross. The teams usually retire to the local pub afterwards for a ‘few’ drinks.
More info: Visit www.facebook.com/BottleKickingHallaton to find out about this year’s event.