Bottle-kicking

Bottle-kicking is an old Leicestershire custom that takes place in the village of Hallaton each Easter Monday.cite web
url=http://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/FolkloreYear-Easter.htm
title=The Folklore Year - Easter
publisher=Historic-UK.com
accessdate=2007-06-25
] Records of bottle-kicking date to the late 1700s, but the custom is thought to originate much earlier, from before the Christian era.

Origin and history

Local lore claims that the custom began when two ladies of Hallaton were saved from a raging bull by a startled hare, distracting the bull from its charge. They showed their gratitude to God for sending the hare by donating money to the church on the understanding that every Easter Monday, the vicar would provide a hare pie, twelve penny loaves, and 2 barrels of beer for the poor of the village.cite web
url=http://www.hallaton.org/legend.html
title=The Hallaton Bottle Kicking Legend
accessdate=2007-06-25
work=Hallaton
]

The Hallaton villagers would fight each other for the food and drink, and on one occasion, the residents of the neighbouring village of Medbourne joined the fray and stole the beer.Fact|date=June 2007 The Hallatonians cooperated to retrieve the spoils, thus beginning the village rivalry that continues to this day.

Other explanations of the custom's origin include the idea that the tradition harks back to England's pagan past, when hares were sacrificed to the goddess Eostre.

Bottle-kicking has been an annual tradition for over 200 years. The tradition has been cancelled only once in that time, in 2001 because of concerns over foot and mouth disease.cite news
title=Ancient tradition saved by village
url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/leicestershire/2947763.stm
publisher=BBC News
date=2003-04-14
accessdate=2007-06-25
] Legend has it that the rector of Hallaton, opposed to the tradition because of its pagan origins, tried to ban the event in 1790. However, he relented the next day, after the words "No pie, no parson" appeared scrawled on the wall of the vicarage overnight.

Procession and hare pie scramble

The event starts with a parade through the villages of Medbourne and Hallaton. Locals carry a large hare pie and the three "bottles", which are actually small kegs or barrels. Two of the bottles are filled with beer; the third, called "the dummy", is made of solid wood and painted red and white.cite web
url=http://www.visitbritain.com/corporate/Images/Quirky%20Events%20Diary%202007%20-%20FINAL_tcm197-87125.pdf
title=Quirky British Events for 2007
accessdate=2007-06-25
month=December | year=2006
format=PDF
work=Bottle Kicking and Hare Pie Scramble
publisher=visitBritain
pages=p. 4
]

The pie is blessed by the Hallaton vicar before being cut apart and thrown to the crowd for the "scramble". The rest is placed in a sack to be carried up the nearby Hare Pie Hill.cite web
url=http://www.harborough.gov.uk/pp/gold/viewGold.asp?IDType=Page&ID=9331
title=Medbourne Tourism Page
accessdate=2007-06-25
work=Harborough District Council Web Site
publisher=Harborough District Council
]

The bottles are then taken to the Buttercross (a conical structure with a sphere on top, used for keeping butter and cheese cool when the village was a market town) on the village green to be dressed with ribbons. Here, the penny loaves are distributed to the crowd.cite web
url=http://www.hallaton.org/introducingbottl.html
title=Introducing Hare Pie Scrambling and Bottle Kicking
accessdate=2007-06-25
work=Hallaton
]

Game

There are virtually no rules to the bottle-kicking. In the early afternoon, the hare pie is spread on the ground at a dip at the top of Hare Pie Bank, which is possibly the site of an ancient temple. [ [http://www.le.ac.uk/users/grj1/morrell.html St Morrell of Hallaton] ] Each bottle is then tossed in the air three times, signaling the start of the competition.cite web
url=http://www.hallaton.org/starting.html
title=Starting the Game
accessdate=2007-06-25
work=Hallaton
] Each team tries to move the bottles, on a best-of-three basis, across two streams one mile (1.6 km) apart, by any means possible.

The contest is a rough one, with teams fighting to move the bottles over such obstacles as ditches, hedges, and barbed wire. Broken bones are not unheard-of, and emergency services are generally on standby.cite news
first=Chris
last=Breese
title=Bottle kicking krazy
url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/leicester/content/articles/2005/03/29/hallaton_bottle_kicking_feature.shtml
publisher=BBC News
date=2005-03-29
accessdate=2007-06-25
]

Those unfamiliar with the rivalry between the two villages might feel that Hallaton has an unfair advantage with regard to the geography of the ground over which the bottle-kicking takes place.Fact|date=June 2007 However, any advantage results from the natural evolution of the event into a game and is not deliberate.Fact|date=June 2007

The bottle-kicking scrums are the highlight of a full day of merrymaking by the residents of both villages. Many participants have several pints before joining in, and people join and leave the scrum as they please, often for some quick refreshment with family and friends.Fact|date=June 2007

Several families from each village are especially vested in the contest, taking it upon themselves to participate in the game from start to finish to win a barrel for display in the local pub.Fact|date=June 2007

After the game, participants and spectators return to the village. Those players who put in an especially good effort (for example, carrying a barrel across the goal stream or holding on to a barrel for quite some time) are helped up onto the top of the ten-foot-tall Buttercross, and the opened bottle is passed up for them to drink from before being passed around the crowd.

The festive day normally draws to a close with participants and spectators retiring to pub for drink and banter.Fact|date=June 2007

ee also

* Cranoe
* Haxey Hood a similar sport from Lincolnshire.
* Ba game a game played in towns in Scotland.

References

External links

* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/leicestershire/2947763.stm Ancient tradition saved by village] BBC news story, (14 April, 2003)
* [http://www.hallaton.org/bottlekicking.html Bottle kicking and hare pie scrambling]
* [http://www.philpreen.co.uk/silliness/bottlekicking.htm An eye witness account]


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