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Celebrate Easter differently with the Hare Pie Scramble and Bottle Kicking Festival

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Although Lent has just begun, people in two rival villages in Leicestershire are already looking ahead to Easter Monday, when they will partake in a strange folk custom involving eating 'hare' pie and fighting over barrels.

The Hallaton Hare Pie Scramble and Bottle Kicking festival is a day of bizarre festivities deep seated in the traditions of the neighbouring villages of Hallaton and Medbourne in Leicestershire.

After a presentation of penny loaves, a parade by the children of the villages, a scramble for pieces of hare pie (these days made of beef) and other such festivities, the real fun begins. Three small barrels, two containing beer and a dummy one made of wood, are shown to the crowd. The dummy barrel is then thrown in the air to signify kickoff.

Villagers are tasked with the difficult job of getting the dummy barrel back to their own settlement, hindered only by the attempts of those from the opposing village who are just as determined to secure the alcohol for themselves. The thresholds of the villages are marked by streams which run about a mile apart. The winners who are in possession of the barrel are then invited to savour their victory by drinking the beer from the open kegs.

Rules of the game are minimal, with no marked pitch or time limit, and only a vague 'best of three' scoring system to go by. However, over the years players have established that no weapons must be carried or vehicles used. The geography of the area is said the favour Hallaton, which results in the village winning the competition more often than not.

Blogger Lucy Peel, who has attended the unorthodox event, reported on her own site that while it is rare for women to take part now, during 1914-1918 when the men were away at war, the two teams consisted entirely of women, who were unwilling to let the tradition fizzle out.

Some claim the Hallaton Hare Pie Scramble and Bottle Kicking festival dates back to the Iron Age, although this claim is highly debatable. However, there is a clear record of the quirky tradition taking place in the 18th century and it is likely that the event predates the 16th century, with field names containing references to hare pie.

The most plausible tale of how the event began involves two women in Hallaton who managed to escape an angry bull thanks to a heroic hare that distracted the creature. The women were so thankful for their lucky getaway that they made a sizable donation to the church on the condition that every Easter Monday, it would provide its villagers with a feast of penny loaves, beer and a hare pie. One year, residents of the neighbouring village of Medbourne decided to steal the beer and take it back to their village, causing a fight between the men of the two villages, and thus the event was born.
 
For more information on the Hallaton Hare Pie Scramble and Bottle Kicking Festival, click here.

 

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