May Morning in Oxford

A lot of countries celebrate 1st May, and so does Britain. Oxford for example has some wonderful traditions linked with this day. Admittedly, some are more sane than others, but please read on, and judge for yourself!

The day starts at sunrise, or to be precise at 6 a.m., when the Magdalen College choir sings a hymn from the top of Magdalen Tower (see http://www.magd.ox.ac.uk/history/cc_hymnus.shtml for the text and a recording of the first few lines). This is the highlight of the day and crowds of people gather under the Tower, and along the High Street, to hear them. If you enjoy choral music, and don’t mind getting up at 5 a.m. too much (auch!), it is an amazing experience not to be missed! There will be another choir singing, just a little later, at 7 am, at St John’s College on St Giles.

After the singing, you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast somewhere in town, as a lot of the pubs and restaurants will be open, some even starting as early as 5 am. The festivities continue all over the city, and include traditional Morris dancing. At Dailyinfo, http://www.dailyinfo.co.uk/whatson/, you can find information about where you can have watch Morris dancing and have a champagne breakfast, a full English or even burger and chips (an early morning barbie at the Turf from 6 to 8 am!) if that’s what you fancy!

On the same morning, don’t be surprised to see a lot of people in dinner suits, and ball gowns. Hopefully not both at the same time, but you never know, as the crowds are sometimes pretty raucous! This is because a number of college balls take place the night before, and in the early morning, the merry crowds spill all over the city to partake in the May Morning festivities! In addition, Oxford students have a May Morning ‘custom’ of their own on. You see, it is ‘traditional’ for the students to attempt to jump off Magdalene Bridge on May morning and break their limbs and necks while at it! In 2005, about 50 of them seeked medical assistance after jumping in the shallow water under the bridge! This year, the authorities are stamping down on it and trying to save some crazy people’s limbs and lives, so the bridge will be closed for traffic between 3 and 8.30 a.m!

Enjoy the May Morning/Day wherever you are!

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5 Comments

  1. oh, yes. i remember them may balls.

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  2. IT MUST BE QUIET AN EXPERIENCE THERE. I HAD VERY KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THIS DAY. THANKS FOR THE INFO 🙂

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  3. realfoodlover

     /  1 May, 2008

    Hi – and let’s not forget that May 1 is also International Workers’ Day. In the late 1880s, US workers went on strike and won the eight-hour day for future generations. Thank you, brave worker-bees!

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  4. loreculinarty

     /  5 May, 2008

    We celebrated Worker’s Day, but it’s good to know about other traditions.

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  5. Thanks for the comments, everyone! Hope you enjoyed this little vignette! I’d be interested to know how May Day is celebrated in your countries. 🙂

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