Jack in the Green is a traditional May Day celebration that originated in England, particularly in the southern counties such as Sussex and Kent. This vibrant and lively event is a colourful manifestation of ancient pagan customs intertwined with more recent Christian traditions.
The Hastings festival is the largest event of its kind in the country, typically taking place on the first weekend of May, drawing crowds of locals and visitors alike. The highlight of the festivities is the towering Jack in the Green figure, a living embodiment of nature adorned with a lavish coat of greenery. This splendid effigy is paraded through the streets, accompanied by a procession of Morris dancers, musicians, and revellers bedecked in fresh foliage.
One of the unique features of the Hastings Jack in the Green is the “Rising of the Jack.” On the morning of May Day, the effigy is symbolically “awakened” by a special ceremony at the Fishermen’s Museum. This ritual marks the official start of the day’s festivities and is attended by a gathering of enthusiastic onlookers.
At its heart, the festival is a celebration of the arrival of spring and the renewal of nature. It is thought that the Jack in the Green custom originated around the 17th century from the milkmaids and chimney sweeps of London. The central figure, known as the “Jack in the Green,” is a towering figure covered in a framework of greenery, often resembling a walking tree or bush. This character is typically accompanied by a procession of musicians, dancers, and revellers. The Green Man, a symbol of rebirth and the cycle of growth, is often associated with Jack in the Green.
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