Want to Know More About May Morning in Oxford?

We unpack this wonderful British tradition for you, ahead of this year’s Bank Holiday Weekend…

May Morning is a traditional celebration, held each year in Oxford on 1st May, to mark the coming of spring. An annual event, celebrating the fertility and abundance of the season, May Morning brings together Oxford’s communities in song, dance and revelry from sunrise to sunset on the first of the month, and is a tradition that both staff and guests at our hotel in Oxford enjoy upholding each year as the city comes to life for one special day only.


But what about its origins?


It has been reported that singing has been heard from the Tower on May Day, signifying the start of the celebrations, as far back as the 17th century. However, the actual origins of the tradition continue to remain a mystery. From religion to patriotism and pagan significance, May Morning has had all manner of meanings and from singing to horn blowing and running amok in the city centre, people have celebrated it in many different ways over time.


In more recent years, May Morning has taken on more of a party atmosphere, with the same traditions taking place in the city each May Day. The event starts bright and early at 6am, with the Magdalen College Choir singing the Hymnus Eucharisticus from the top of Magdalen Tower. Hymnus Eucharisticus was composed in the 17th century by a Fellow of Magdalen and has been sung every year from the Great Tower on May Morning. This has been a longstanding tradition of over 500 years and is one of the most beautiful sounds this part of the world will ever hear. Large crowds gather along the High Street and on Magdalen Bridge to listen to the gorgeous song before the festivities unfold across the city. Throughout the day, residents and guests at our Oxford hotel can enjoy traditional Morris dancing in Radcliffe Square, as well as the general party atmosphere that sweeps across Oxford on this day from the early hours of the morning – in fact, there are plenty of all-night balls that take place the night before, which roll on into the early hours, so do make sure to look out for students in black tie wandering the city on Monday morning!


This year, the celebrations will start at 6am on Monday 1 May 2017, with the choristers of Magdalen College choir singing Hymnus Eucharisticus, as per tradition, from the Great Tower. This will be followed by the bells ringing out over the city for approximately 20 minutes. It is at this point you will want to head to the best restaurant in Oxford for a spot of lunch or a quick drink before carrying on with the rest of your festivities and we will be serving up plenty of delicious food throughout the day, so do pop in.


Head to Oxford this Bank Holiday Weekend to join in the May Day celebrations and enjoy a little taste of nostalgia for the days of old.


If you need somewhere to stay in our wonderful city, head to our gorgeous hotel in Oxford and spend the night in comfort and style for a very reasonable rate.

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