Sat, May 13, 2017 - Page 14 News List


People dressed in green costumes celebrate around a Jack-in-the-Green on West Hill in Hastings, UK, on May 1.

Photos: Paul Cooper, Taipei Times

A three-meter-tall structure decorated with twigs, leaves and branches, a green mask and a regal crown wends its way through the streets of Hastings Old Town. Somewhere inside is a weary man or woman — they take turns over the course of the parade — laboring under the weight of the edifice mounted on their shoulders. This is the “Jack-in-the-Green,” and it is followed by a retinue of revelers in pagan garb, sometimes jovial, often outlandish, predominantly green, always related in some way to Nature and the coming of the summer.

The day is May 1, the town is Hastings on the south coast of England, and the parade is part of the annual Jack-in-the-Green festival. In a few hours, Jack will be led onto a stage on the West Hill overlooking the old fishing harbor and seafront, and will be ceremoniously “slain,” releasing the spirit of summer. Everybody goes home with part of the dismantled greenery.

The May Day celebration in England goes back to Roman times. In the late 18th century, people would wear garlands of flowers and leaves, and in time work guilds would compete with each other for the most elaborate garlands. The Jack-in-the-Green figure evolved from the chimney sweeps’ guild, who made a garland so large it covered the entire person.

The tradition went out of fashion by 1889, with the Victorians frowning upon on the noisy and drunken revelry that often accompanied the celebrations. It was revived in Hastings in 1983 by a group of Morris dancers.

(Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)






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