Jack in the Green is a festival in May that celebrates the arrival of summer. We explore the folklore behind this lively English tradition.
Jack in the Green is a traditional May Day festival that originated in England. It involves a person or a group of people dressed in greenery, representing the spirit of spring and new growth.
The origins of Jack in the Green are unclear, but the festival is believed to have its roots in ancient pagan rituals celebrating the arrival of spring. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Jack in the Green was a common sight on the streets of London, where it was part of the May Day celebrations.
The Jack in the Green costume typically consists of a wooden or wire frame covered in greenery, such as leaves, flowers, and branches. The wearer is completely hidden by the costume, which can be quite heavy and difficult to move in. In some versions of the festival, the Jack in the Green is accompanied by Morris dancers, who perform traditional folk dances.
The festival has experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years, with many communities across England reviving the tradition. In some areas, it is now customary to crown a May Queen as part of the celebrations.
Today, Jack in the Green is a colourful and vibrant celebration of spring and nature, with people of all ages joining in the festivities. It is a unique and enduring tradition that continues to bring joy and a sense of community to those who take part.
7 Interesting Facts about Jack in the Green
- The Jack in the Green festival is also known as the Green Man or the Garland King.
- The Jack in the Green costume is thought to have originated from the medieval tradition of May Day garlands, which were made of flowers and carried through the streets.
- In some versions of the festival, the Jack in the Green is accompanied by a Hobby Horse, which is a person dressed in a horse costume.
- The Jack in the Green festival was largely suppressed in the 19th century due to concerns about public disorder, but it was revived in the 20th century as part of the folk revival movement.
- The Hastings Jack in the Green festival, held in the town of Hastings in East Sussex, is one of the largest and most popular Jack in the Green events in the UK.
- The Jack in the Green festival is not just limited to England – similar traditions can be found in other parts of Europe, such as the May Day celebrations in Germany and the Walpurgis Night festivities in Scandinavia.
- The Jack in the Green has inspired many works of literature and art, including the novel “Jack in the Green” by Charles de Lint and the song “Jack in the Green” by Jethro Tull.