Today is Easter Monday and in addition to egg rolling, all sorts of festivities are taking place in the UK, where Easter Monday is a Banking Holiday.
At Hallaton in Leicestershire, the annual Hare Pie Scramble and Bottle Kicking match is held, although the pie is made of beef and the bottles are tiny wooden kegs like the “plough-bottles” field workers once used to hold their daily ration of ale or cider.
There are varying accounts as to the origin of this custom. Some accounts say it began as a pre-Christian Celtic ritual; some say it originated in the Middle Ages. One legend has it originating in 1770, putting it close enough to “our” time period. On Easter Monday, the Lady of the Manor was crossing a field and was charged by a raging bull. She was saved when a hare ran across the bull’s path. Because her life was saved, a piece of land was given to the rector (how that follows, who knows?) on the condition that every Easter Monday thereafter he cook two hare pies, bake a dozen loafs of bread, and provide three kegs of ale, all to be given to the needy, who presumably “scrambled” for their share. Nice way to thank that brave little hare, cooking its descendents into pies…
Today in Hallaton, a parade will begin at the Fox Inn and end at St. Michael’s Church. A man carrying a pole with the symbol of a hare leads the parade, followed by a woman carrying the bread in a basket, two women carrying the pie, and three men holding the kegs of ale over their heads.
At the end of the parade, the pieces of pie are thrown in the air and the crowd scrambles for them. The bread is blessed before being thrown to the crowd.
After the scramble the crowd proceeds to a field where a contest begins between Hallaton and neighboring Medbourne, to see which team can get all three ale barrels to a touchline in their repective villages. The contest takes the teams over hills, through hedges, across a stream. Every year some people are injured.
At the end everybody drinks the ale…
Here in the Washington DC area Easter Monday means the Easter Egg hunt at the White House. I’ve never attended the White House event but I did take my then 3 year old daughter to an Easter egg hunt once.
Come to think of it, it was a lot like Hallaton’s Hare Pie Scramble…
Photographs are courtesy of http://www.ourmaninside.com/, “Documentally” on Twitter. Thank you, Documentally!
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