May Day has been celebrated in the UK since the times of old and it’s no different in the Sussex coastal town of Hastings. Every year the Old Town is awash with green to welcome in the start of summer. Jack in the Green has it’s roots in the 16th and 17th century. To celebrate May Day, people would compete to see who would make the most elaborate garland until, by the 18th century, garlands created by chimney sweeps covered an entire person and thus Jack in the Green was born.
The straight-laced Victorians soon put a stop to the May Day drunken shenanigans. A law was also passed which banned boys becoming chimney sweeps and gave Jack in the Green the death knell in 1889. It was revived in the 80’s by the Mad Jacks Morris Dancers and now groups from across the UK come annually to help the town continue it’s tradition.
The celebrations are a four-day affair, starting on the Friday and ending in a procession that sees Jack being stripped of his leaves on the Monday, with morris dancing and drinking in between. It’s said that if you manage to grab some leaves off Jack, you’ll get good luck for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, I only managed to get down for the last day when everyone was waiting for Jack to appear. I also didn’t get any leaves this year either. I hope I’m not doomed for the rest of 2015!