I always look forward to the May Bank Holiday as it can only mean one thing: Summer is well and truly on the way. Last Monday, Ciaran and I woke up early and zoomed down the A3 to Hastings. We arrived at Lauren and Simon's just in time for scrambled eggs on toast then wound our way through the twitterns to watch the annual Jack In The Green celebrations!
I always jump at the chance to visit Hastings old town - the buildings are so beautiful, there is so much history and so many brilliant antiques shops but the thing I like the most are the people! The good people of Hastings really know how to celebrate their community - there is Hastings Pirate Day, Hastings Bonfire Society (of which Lauren is a fully fledged torch carrying member) and Hastings Carnival Week but perhaps the most well known festival of all is Jack-In-The-Green.
Jack-In-The-Green has it's roots in the 1600's when milkmaids began braiding flowers and silver household objects into their hair at the beginning of May to celebrate the coming of Summertime. The trend soon caught on and before long flower sellers, strawberry pickers and window cleaners (practically the entire cast of Oliver Twist!) were all trying to outdo each other with their increasingly extravagant flower crowns and garlands. Not wanting to be outdone, the chimney sweeps made their crowns out of laurel leaves which eventually got so big that they covered the man completely from head to to! These chaps came to be known as 'Jack-In-The-Green'. These long lost May day celebrations were drunken and lewd affairs so it's not surprising that it was during the Victorian era that they gradually faded from view. Jack-In-The-Green celebrations took place in Hastings until about 1889 when they ceased and might have faded into History but for a small group of Morris dancers who revived the tradition in 1983. The Hastings Jack-In-The-Green website has a whole load more information on the history of the tradition and the significant of some of the characters who you'll spot in my photos below (and is also the source of most of the above information). Go and take a peek!
We arrived in the old town just before 11.00am and the celebrations were already well underway. Even the houses shopfronts and railings were decorated with laurel leaves, ivy and ribbons!
We found ourselves a great spot in the sun, sent the boys of in search of ale and got ready to watch the procession.
Here comes Jack!
Our flower crowns are both DIY jobs, made using supplies from the Hastings Shirley Leaf and Petal Company! Lauren chose these fantastic fern leaves and I 'borrowed' one of my flowergirls garlands from the wedding!
These Morris dancers had such an incredible energy - they were brilliant! I'm actually really tempted to take it up myself.
As the procession gathered pace the Morris dancers were followed by groups of drummers - I could hardly keep myself from skipping along with them!
The costumes were really breathtaking - so intricate! Amusingly almost everyone had a silver tankard swinging from their belt - processing is thirsty work!
The giants arrived!
Followed by more Morris dancers - their face paint represents the sooty chimney sweepers who first started the tradition.
Lauren is wearing a beautiful vintage green silk dress.
I'm wearing this cool outfit of my Mum's from the 60's! It's a tiered peasant style skirt and an amazing matching blouse with big ballooning sleeves. I love the way it combines so many different patters but all in the same colours - blue and white. I paired it with my favourite Minnetonka moccasins.
And that was just about all I could capture before my camera battery ran out (blogger fail). After the procession had passed we made our way up onto the West Hill where we mingled with the Bogies, drank a few more ales and watched the slaying of the Jack, and the releasing of Summer 2013! Thank you for having us Lauren and Simon!
Lauren is the author of the fabulous lifestyle blog Lamb Likes - if you're interested in the Sussex way of life, strong cider, the countryside, 70's rock music, antiques or DIY go take a peek!
Kapow! Thanks for reading! Don't forget you can follow my shenanigans on an (almost) daily basis by following my Instagram account!