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May Day Celebrations in Oxfordshire

May Day is a public holiday in some regions, usually celebrated on 1 May or the first Monday of May. It is an ancient festival marking the first day of summer. It is a current traditional spring holiday in many European cultures. May Day Celebrations are occurring this year in Oxfordshire

May Morning in Oxford – May Day Celebrations in Oxfordshire

One of the main May Day celebrations in Oxfordshire is the ‘May Morning’ in Oxford. May morning in Oxford is famous for the thousands who gather at 6am to hear a Latin hymn sung from the top of Magdalen College tower. Celebrations in 2020 and 2021 were held virtually because of the pandemic. However, this year Oxford’s May morning is to be celebrated in person again.

The celebrations begin at 5am, when crowds start assembling on Magdalen Bridge. At 6am as the sun comes up the Magdalen College choir sing the Hymnus Eucharisticus from the Great TowerAfter a brief service there are more short choral pieces. Then bells ring out for some 20 minutes. Then many more traditional celebrations ensue.

‘Up the Hurst!’

Another May Day Celebration in Oxfordshire is located on The Hurst, a wooded hill near Cumnor. At ‘Botley May Morning’ crowds assemble in the Arnold’s Way car park around 4.30am and make their way to the Hurst where there are readings, songs, dances, fire-jumping and a decoration of the May Staff. The celebration, organised by local morris side Armaleggan, ends around 7 am. It has been held since 1999.

North Parade

When the shenanigans die down in the city centre there is a drift to North Parade. This short shopping street runs off Banbury Road and lies about half a mile north of St Giles. ‘May Day is Midday at North Parade’ runs the slogan. The street is closed to traffic between about 12 noon and 2pm, when there is morris dancing in the street and sessions in the Rose & Crown.

There are many other ways to celebrate May Day in Oxfordshire as well.  The most important thing for us is that summer is coming!



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