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Page last updated at 16:37 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009
Christmas horseplay in east Kent
By Hamish Reid
BBC Kent


A performance of the 2009 Hooden play

A tradition, associated with carters and ploughmen in east Kent, involves a wooden horse head on a stick, covered by hessian being carried around the village.

The lower jaw is hinged, and a pull cord makes the jaws slap together.

Traditionally the horse, and a group of other characters, would act out scenes at the local big houses, in return for money and drink.

Nowadays, 'hoodening' raises money for charity.

A small group of villagers tour around the village pubs, and perform a comedy referring to current news events while joining in the consumption of alcohol and collecting money for charity. A new play is written each year by a member of the band of players, and is performed in the last week before Christmas.

Hoodening, or hodening, may originate from the pagan Scandanavians, who often sacrificed a horse at the winter solstice to Odin, in the hope of success in battle. The term Hoodening could be derived from "Odining".

An other suggestion is that the name refers to the horse's head, which is covered by a hessian hood, which also covers the operator of the contraption.

To see the hooden horse in action, why not go along to one of the performances taking place in the run up to Christmas?

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