Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Signs of Early Summer's Arrival


With the unusually wet and cold weather we've been having lately it's hard to believe we are coming into early summer. The Jack in the Green Festival which happens every May bank holiday weekend in Hastings is a celebration to mark the end of the winter. Now in it's twenty-ninth year, it is based on an old festival by the local chimney sweeps who would celebrate the new season of chimney sweeping once the winter fires had been put out. It is said that Jack began as a small garland worn by a sweep. These days Jack is a crowned giant of evergreen foliage who leads a merry procession through the streets of Hastings and into the castle for an afternoon of singing, dancing and boozing. Genuine sweeps still take part in the parade as well as Morris dancers, folk musicians, giants that represent summer and winter and a green mermaid as tall as the trees. All through the old town large bunches of laurel leaves and colourful ribbons adorn houses, railings and lamp posts. All the shops have a green themed window display. It's fun to see each different interpretation of Jack in the Green as well as the incredible costumes in the parade which seem to get more elaborate every year. This year the grey clouds hanging overhead and the chilly showers all cleared once Jack had been symbolically slain and the spirit of summer was released for another year.
Another sign that the winter is over and summer is on our doorstep is the emergence of the dragonfly from it's underwater home. The alien like nymphs that have hatched from eggs live in ponds and marshes while they grow into dragonflies. This portion of the life cycle can take an incredible four years to complete. When the weather is right the nymphs start to crawl out of the water up the stems of plants. The metamorphosis is complete when the dragonfly breaks out of the nymph skin, leaving it behind as a dry empty shell called the exuvia. Perched on the leaves with their wings outstretched drying them, you can see just how intricate and stunning the design of the dragonfly is. Amazingly these beautiful creatures only live for about two months. It's enough time to find a female mate who will lay eggs and the whole cycle starts again. These photos were taken at the allotment on the punk's plot. He's delighted to discover his pond is allowed to stay because the newts are protected.

Do you celebrate the coming of summer? What signs and symbols represent this change for you?

11 comments:

  1. Interesting old traditions! I love the giants - fantastic!
    Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

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  2. I am so glad you posted such a wonderful article for the May Bank Holiday festivities.
    It reminded me of my efforts as a child to be the most bouyant and bouncy Morris Dancer that my school had ever seen when we put on a May Bank Holiday show. Wow I loved those ankle bells!
    Paul

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  3. What a great event. Let's hope it does mean warmer weather is here at last! xx

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  4. Aren't they fun Liz :)

    Thanks Paul. Aw, I can just imagine you, hope you've got photos of that. You would love Jack In the Green; so much colour and costume and foliage! Come down next year!!

    Well the welcome sunshine was short-lived. We're back to grey sky and drizzle. hope it's better where you are.

    X

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  5. At least it was sunny for the festivities - looked like a good time was had by all.

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  6. Beautiful pics! Hope you have by now a warm and sunny wether :o)
    have a nice day
    Natasha

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  7. The sun was short lived Elaine, we've been under a cloud ever since. Or as my son said "under a pillow".

    There looks like there might be some sunshine at the weekend! I might have to have another festival to celebrate. (On a small scale, at the allotment).

    Thanks for your comments.

    X

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  8. The Festival looks great fun. Sounds more meaningful to me than Olympics or the like. Stunningly detailed photographs of the dragonfly. I haven't seen any here yet but it's been cold.

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  9. I have to admit I'm not too bothered about the Olympics either Janet, especially after I heard how the landlords have put their rent up in the surrounding area and lots of people have been forced out of their homes. Feel really lucky to have got the dragonfly photos. They were all gone a couple of days later.

    X

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  10. What a beautiful and interseting post, looks like a fabulous festival
    love jooles x

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  11. Thanks Jooles. It's become more popular every year and now attracts quite a crowd from all over.

    X

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