Strange Oxford Traditions: May Morning

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Date of Publication: 30 April 2014

The first of May is celebrated across the world, no less so than here in Oxford. The day begins the night before, as the most popular dance nights swing into town for all night parties, ending just before six in the morning. At daybreak, as the sun rises, the townspeople and students congregate together underneath the Tower of Magdalen College, on the High Street and Magdalen Bridge, for what is a special occasion each year in Oxford.

As the sun rises on the thousands of revelers underneath the tower, many in their dinner suits and ball gowns from the night before, the choir of Magdalen College begin to sing from the top of the tower, something that has happened there on May Morning for five hundred years!

After the singing of the Hymnus Eucharisticus, there is a prayer for the City and University. Then the wider festivities begin, from brass bands to Morris Dancing troops, the city’s streets are filled with traditional entertainment to welcome in spring. Finding people dressed as trees is not uncommon as one winds one’s way through the crowds and into the many pubs and coffee shops which open early for the revelry.

After a pint, or more likely a large coffee it is time to roll back into College, grab breakfast and then collapse in the library for another day at the books (or more likely fall asleep on the quad!)

It is not an experience to be missed for any Oxford Student: completely bizarre and a smashing good time!

Read more about the history of Oxford in Is history really around every corner in Oxford?

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