May Day fever sweeps the UK as crowds enjoy traditional celebrations

Jack in the Green, chimney sweeps and Morris dancers: May Day fever sweeps the UK as crowds enjoy traditional celebrations

  • Hastings enjoyed the traditional start of summer with green as part of the Jack of the Green legend festival
  • Festival takes place over four days every May and culminates with a procession through Hastings’ Old Town 
  • References were seen to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this June as parade continued with bright costumes
  • Elsewhere in the UK, traditional Morris dancers entertain the crowds for May Day in Henley on Thames today

Hastings has celebrated the traditional start of summer with a splash of green – as part of the Jack of the Green legend festival.

The festival takes place over four days every May and culminates with a procession through Hastings’ Old Town on the May bank holiday Monday.

The festival’s greenery celebrates the blooming flowers and foliage which precipitates the coming of spring.

Revellers lined the streets clad in green to celebrate the coming of spring with a procession of vibrant costumes walking down the streets of historic Hastings, East Sussex.

References were seen to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this summer as the parade continued through the Old Town.

Costumed participants were seen wearing a myriad of colourful outfits which fit with the theme with the start of the warmer months.

Jack of the Green, the central character of the festival, symbolises winter and the tradition started in the 17th century as part of May Day celebrations. 

Jack was first referenced in 1770 with some historians believing that the character goes back further and has pagan roots.

The legend of Jack evolved during the 1700s and eventually ended up covering Jack from head to foot in foliage, hence Green Jack then became known as Jack in the Green.

The traditional festival also involves creative decorative neck or headwear from flowers and leaves which were worn while dancing around a Maypole. Many visitors to the festival this year carry on the tradition, wearing their own garlands to see the parade.

Some people even put a modern twist on the festival, bring green smoke flares to create an even more spirited atmosphere.

Elsewhere in the UK, traditional Morris dancers entertained the crowds for May Day celebrations. 

May Day celebrations took over the UK today, a traditional festival which takes place over four days every May, culminating with a procession through Hastings’ Old Town (pictured) on bank holiday Monday

The festival’s greenery celebrates the blooming flowers and foliage which precipitates the coming of spring .References were seen to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee (pictured) this summer as the parade continued through the Old Town

Revellers lined the streets clad in green to celebrate the coming of spring with a procession of vibrant costumes walking down the streets of historic Hastings, East Sussex

Costumed participants were seen wearing a myriad of colourful outfits which fit with the theme with the start of the warmer months. Jack of the Green, the central character of the festival, symbolises winter and the tradition started in the 17th century as part of May Day celebrations

Jack was first referenced in 1770 with some historians believing that the character goes back further and has pagan roots. Local residents pictured taking part from their window

The legend of Jack evolved during the 1700s and eventually ended up covering Jack from head to foot in foliage, hence Green Jack then became known as Jack in the Green

The traditional festival also involves creative decorative neck or headwear from flowers and leaves which were worn while dancing around a Maypole

Many visitors to the festival this year carry on the tradition, wearing their own garlands to see the parade

Some people even put a modern twist on the festival, bring green smoke flares to create an even more spirited atmosphere

People pictured attending the May Day bank holiday Jack In The Green parade in Hastings on bank holiday Monday

The Ellington Morris dancers entertained visitors and locals in Henley on Thames to celebrate the arrival of summer.

The team are named after the original Domesday Book designation for Maidenhead, from where the group hail.

Morris dancing is thought to evolve from dancing around a Maypole – which in terms comes from the pagan custom of dancing around a tree to shove off to rival villages.

They attended the Henley May Fayre as one of the few mixed-gender Cotswolds Morris dancing troupes on Monday.

Morris dancers were also seen celebrating Beltane May Day on High Peak in Derbyshire before sunrise yesterday.

Dancers performed their annual dance atop the Eccles Pike at sunrise, as part of the ancient Celtic festival Beltane, celebrated on May Day weekend.

The costumes were far from traditional like those seen in Henley, with participants turning out in steampunk-inspired gear.

The Ellington Morris dancers entertained visitors and locals in Henley on Thames to celebrate the arrival of summer. The team are named after the original Domesday Book designation for Maidenhead, from where the group hail

Morris dancers celebrated Beltane May Day on High Peak in Derbyshire before sunrise on Saturday morning. Dancers, pictured, performed the annual dance atop Eccles Pike at sunrise as part of the ancient Celtic festival Beltane

 Morris dancing is thought to evolve from dancing around a Maypole – which in terms comes from the pagan custom of dancing around a tree to shove off to rival villages

Morris dancers were also seen celebrating Beltane May Day on High Peak in Derbyshire before sunrise yesterday

Dancers performed their annual dance atop the Eccles Pike at sunrise, as part of the ancient Celtic festival Beltane, celebrated on May Day weekend

. The costumes were far from traditional like those seen in Henley, with participants turning out in steampunk-inspired gear

MAY DAY: A BRITISH TRADITION 

The Easter period and springtime brings with it a host of bank holidays, with the month of May being book-ended by two alone. In fact, on the first May bank holiday, there is a special celebration called May Day.

But why does the UK have a bank holiday at the beginning of May, what is May Day and how do people celebrate it?

What is May Day?

May Day is a holiday that is usually celebrated on May 1, but more recently has become aligned with the day that the May bank holiday falls on.

The holiday has its roots in the Roman spring holiday of Floralia, a holiday that honors Flora, the goddess of flowers and was celebrated on April 27. According to the J Paul Getty Museum, Floralia was a precursor to the May Day celebrations.

May Day also has a connection to the Gaelic festival of Beltane, which was held on May 1 or in-between the Spring Equinox and the summer solstice and celebrated the beginning of summer.

In more modern times May Day has become associated with the workers’ movement and in countries including the UK and Russia May 1 marks the International Workers’ Day.

May Day was actually banned in the 17th century in the UK during the Interregnum period. The Puritans deemed the May Day celebrations immoral due to the festivities, drinking and dancing. Parliament banned certain features of May Day celebrations such as maypoles in 1644. 

However, after the monarchy was restored with the return of Charles II, many people in England celebrated and showed their loyalty to the crown by erecting maypoles.

When is the first May bank holiday?

The early May bank holiday was introduced in 1978 by then Employment secretary, Michael Foot, who would then go on to become the leader of the Labour party.

The bank holiday would always be on the first Monday of the month of May. This means that the early May bank holiday 2018 falls on Monday, May 7.  

In 2011, there were plans to scrap the first May Bank Holiday and establish a new one in October, but they never went ahead. 

How is May Day celebrated?

Traditional May Day celebrations include dancing around a maypole and crowning a May Queen during the May Day parade.

The May Queen is a girl who wears all white and usually wears a crown. Her role is to mark the commencement of the May Day festivities.

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