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Hallaton Bottle Kicking competition continues Easter tradition

The Leicestershire villages of Hallaton and Medbourne have continued their ancient beer barrel kicking event on Easter Monday. 

In a competition which claims to go back to pagan times, the villages compete to move two of three barrels, which are called ‘bottles’, to the opposition’s local stream.

In a ‘best of three’ game, Hallaton won this year 2-0, after a parade and a ceremonial distribution of a hare pie, which is blessed by a vicar, before being cut up and thrown into the surrounding crowds.

The current chairman of the organising committee, Phil Allan, who has been involved in the event for 50 years, told the BBC that it was the “oldest continuing sporting event in Britain”.

Each barrel holds around a gallon of beer, which is filled at a local pub, and sealed with wax before the competition commences. The only rules of the competition are that eye-gouging, strangulation or use of weapons is not allowed.

Organisers are keen to stress as well that they cannot claim liability for injuries, with several broken bones received this year by competitors, it has been reported.

While two of the barrels contain beer, another is painted red and white and is wooden, and is called a ‘dummy’.

As part of the victory, Hallaton received the two barrels filled with beer, which were distributed amongst the winning players and then spectators, while the losing team got the dummy barrel.

In addition, a stone Butter Cross is presented to the winning team.

After the game, which normally only takes about an hour, the residents of each village retire to local pubs.

Each barrel is thrown in the air three times to signal the beginning of the game, before residents of each village attempt to get the barrels over their neighbours’ stream – around a mile apart.

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