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The Haxey Hood

Every year on 6th January, villagers in Westwoodside and Haxey dress up to compete for possession of ‘the Hood’. This 700-year tradition started when Lady de Mowbray was out riding and a sudden gust of wind blew her hat off. The local farm labourers chased after it. Lady de Mowbray, so pleased to get her hat back, handed out a few titles.

She named the person who returned it to her The Lord of the Hood. The person who actually caught the hood, but dared not hand it to her was dubbed The Fool. The rest were called Boggins, apparently because each time the hood changed hands during the chase she squealed in delight " It’s boggined again".

Everyone was given a strip of land for their trouble and she directed that the happening be restaged every year. All were to wear red jackets except The Fool, whose appearance was to be similar to that of a harlequin.

The event takes place on the Twelfth Night of Christmas, January 6 in a field in Haxey. It is believed to be Britain’s oldest traditional tussle. Proceedings are launched by the Fool from his stone in front of Haxey Parish Church, usually around 2.30pm, and include the ’smoking’ of the fool. He then leads the crowd up the hill for games for the children and the start of the main game at 3.30pm. The Hood, a long leather cylinder, is thrown into the air to launch the proceedings. When it falls the participants (regulars from the local public houses) swarm around it and attempt to sway the hood out of the field, through the streets and back to their favourite hostelry for a celebration and the honour of holding it for the coming year.

The game is refereed by the Lord of the Hood, helped by his Chief Boggin both dressed in scarlet hunting coats and hats decorated with flowers and plumes. The ceremonial Fool, and a bunch of Boggins in red sweaters keep order.

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