Traditional May Morning celebrations are set to take place in person this year.
For the majority of Oxford Undergraduates, this will be their first experiences celebrating May Morning due to COVID restrictions over the past two years. The ceremony was held virtually in 2020 and 2021 – detracting from the spectacle of the fete.
To commence the celebration, large crowds traditionally gather outside of Magdalen College at 6am on 1st May to listen to the Magdalen College Choir. The tradition of singing of “Hymnus Eucharistus,” a 17thC Latin Hymn, dates back at least 500 years. The Magdalen Tower bells then continue to ring for 20 mins to mark the coming of spring.
The festivities allow for the Oxford community to come together and celebrate the event. Crowds customarily come dressed for the occasion, wearing spring costumes and garlands. The group of around 150 Morris Men will then parade their way through town, right the way from Magdalen College to the Radcliffe Square. Folk music and dancing continues through until midday, with the whole community engaging in the dancing, singing, eating, and drinking.
Although official May Morning celebrations begin at 6am, the music and partying atmosphere commences on “May Eve,” for many students. College balls or club nights continue into the early hours of the morning, where partygoers emerge from clubs in the morning to continue the celebrations.
Traditionally, pubs and cafes open at 5am to welcome students from the night before, or those up early enough to get a good position for the choir singing in front of Magdalen College Tower.
Although the modern tradition of jumping from Magdalen Bridge is now banned due to the shallow water, this by no means detracts from the fun. Students often opt for a dip in the River Cherwell as a way to “wake up” before the choir sings.
This unparalleled festivity is expected to be incredibly busy. In 2017, turnout reached 27,000 spectators. This year, May Morning falls on a Sunday, which offers the perfect occasion for partygoers and families alike to gather in Oxford city.
Oxford city council have set up a fundraiser for the celebrations. They have said that they are working to create opportunities for local artists, businesses, and residents to have more involvement in the event. Magdalen Bridge is set to be decorated with art from local artists and creative communities.
The Oxford council’s culture manager, Paula Redway said: “We want this year’s event to be extra special and we want to support Oxford’s artistic community.
“May Day is an occasion to lift the spirits and be joyful, so we’re raising funds to commission pieces showing Oxford’s hidden gems. They will then be displayed on Magdalen Bridge for May morning, and at future events.”
Dubbed one of the highlights of trinity term for students, May morning is set to be the most spectacular celebration in years. This 16th Century tradition is certainly not one to miss.
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