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The Hocktide Festival in Berkshire

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Families looking for a fun day out should head to Hungerfood in Berkshire for the annual Hocktide Festival, which takes place on the Monday and Tuesday after Low Sunday - the Sunday after Easter.

It is an old celebration, which began as a chance for the parish to come together to play sports and games over the Easter period.

While Hocktide was once celebrated in villages all around the country, Hungerfood is the only place to have retained the 14th century tradition, which dates back to the times of Prince John of Gaint.

The prince founded the event when he gave the rights of free grazing and fishing to peasants on the day - this tradition has lasted for 600 years since.

Today, the Hocktide Festival is no longer headed by the mayor, as the town does not have one. Instead, the town constable heads the events - a position to which a person is elected on the second day after Easter at a special ceremony called Hocktide Court.

On the day itself, events are kicked off at eight in the morning when the town crier blows a horn, which calls together all the locals in the town hall. Here the constable elects two other officers and two tutti-men, who carry tall poles with a bunch of spring flowers (known as tutti) tied with ribbons and an orange on top through the town.

As the tutti-men carry the poles, orange men join the parade and collect kisses from the ladies who are waiting on the high street. In return for their kisses, the orange men dish out fruit of the same name.

This tradition dates back to old times, when the men of the parish would be tied up and demand a kiss from the women for their release. The next day, the ritual would be turned on its head, as the women would tie up the men and then demand money to set them free - the funds were then donated to the parish.

After the parade the Hocktide Lunch is held for the Hocktide Council, as well as the guests and commoners - or locals, as they are called in modern times.

After the traditional Plantagenet Punch the shoeing of the colts takes place, which is an initiation ceremony during which attendees are shod by the blacksmith. In olden times, this would mean their legs are held still while a nail is driven into their shoe until they shout "punch".

Today, much of the festival is highly stylized, but it nevertheless provides a fascinating insight into the rituals of the olden days for visitors looking for a wholesome family day out.


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