The Morris Dancers were out inn force today, in preparation for the traditional May Day celebration of Jack-In-The-Green, which takes place tomorrow. JITG is a tradition going back hundreds of years; In the 16th and 17th centuries in England people would make garlands of flowers and leaves for the May Day celebration. They became increasingly elaborate, and many groups would try to outdo each other. In the late 18th century this became a matter for competition, milkmaids in London carried garlands on their heads with silver objects on them, but the crown had to go to the chimney sweeps. Their garland was so big it covered the entire man, and it became known as Jack in the Green.
However, by the turn of the century the custom was seen no more. The reasons were twofold: the Act which stopped boys climbing chimneys had been passed and these had been the main performers; secondly the Victorians had a different attitude to such customs, the prettification of customs took place; no more the giant maypoles with drunken and promiscuous behaviour. They were replaced by small poles imported from Germany with happy skipping children around them.
The custom was revived in Hastings by Mad Jacks Morris Dancers in 1983.