May Morning is one of Oxford's most popular celebrations. Very many Oxonians (and tourists) party the whole night through only to gather on Magdalen Bridge at the unchristian time of 5.30am. The bridge is horribly crowded, every second person is drunk or stoned, some esoterics carry a huge paper sun labelled "Happy May Day, Oxford!"... And then, suddenly, most of the people fall silent as the renowned Magdalen College Choir starts to sing Latin chorals from the top of Magdalen tower at 6 in the morning. Of course, it's hard to understand what they are singing (and it's in Latin anyway), but the atmosphere is really very special - at least for the first song, as most of the drunk and stoned people will continue their conversations afterwards.
It used to be part of the ritual that some weirdos jumped from the bridge into the shallow and stinking waters of the Cherwell. Nowadays, this is strictly forbidden due to several severe accidents that happened in the past, and police will enforce discipline. It still is part of the ritual to go to one of Oxford's cafes or pubs and enjoy a breakfast after the May Morning Singing. So if you're in Oxford on that very morning, join the crowds for a slightly different experience.
May Day is possibly the best day of the year in Oxford. The traditional way to celebrate May Day is to stay awake all night and go and see the choir welcome in the dawn at Magdelen College.
Along Cowley Road, many venues will remain open all night, to allow for the revellers to imbibe huge amounts of alcohol into the early hours. Look out for special events - many clubs will be booking extra special DJs and bands for the ocasion.
A landmark in Oxford, Magdalen's tower cannot be missed on High Street, it being the highest point in Oxford. It rises to a majestic 144 feet and was built in the years between 1492 and 1509.
The bell tower possesses a paltrey 10 bells and amongst the niches are figures of St. Mary Magdalen and St. John the Baptist.
The tower features prominently in May Day celebrations when the renowned college choir welcome the official start of summer by singing from the top of the tower at the crack of dawn, as soon as the sun rises. It's also a damn good excuse for the students to drink all night and day and get extremely inebriated (to say the least). They then gather on Magdalen Bridge and try not to throw themselves into the river. Michael says the event is now policed and high fences are erected to limit injuries and even death. Really,these students don't know when to stop, do they!!!??
On May 1st, it's customary in Oxford for crowds to gather at Magdalen Bridge and listen to Magdalen College Choir welcome the summer! It's also traditional for people to jump from the bridge into the river, though in recent years the police have tried to stop this for safety reasons. I have yet to hear the May Day choir, quite possibly beacause it starts at 6am!