It's May Day tomorrow and every year on May Day morning thousands of people gather around Magdalen Bridge at dawn break to hear choristers sing from the Magdalen College tower – a tradition dating back to 1509. Whilst waking up at the crack of dawn to see a choral performance might not sound like your cup of tea, it is one Oxford tradition that shouldn't be missed!
Make sure you have an early night or prepare for an all nighter as the choristers begin at 6am! Grab yourself a croissant and coffee on the way and join the crowds under the tower, along the High Street or on Magdalen Bridge but be warned, the area is often packed from as early as 5:30am. Arrive any later and you may find that you can’t get close enough to hear the choir!
Although a more recent tradition, jumping from Magdalen Bridge on May Morning is one tradition students are determined to keep alive. Despite active discouragement following a spate of injuries during the 2005 celebrations where around 40 jumpers were injured and some even taken to hospital you might wonder what keeps driving them, other than alcohol that is. One student interviewed after jumping last year said he “did it for the ladies.” Nice.
Despite the early hour, there's a fantastic atmosphere due in part to the fact that many of the college bars open all night and pubs open from sunrise. Having just woken up or even after sampling a few early morning pints, you might not believe your eyes if you start seeing green bearded men, walking trees or people climbing the lamp posts, but it's all there and much much more!
The choral performance is followed by general revelry and festivities including impromptu music and Morris dancing which usually begins around 10:30am. In the mean time, treat yourself to a nice breakfast at The Grand Cafe, Zappi's Bike Cafe, Ashmolean Museum or a number of other breakfast spots around Oxford. (Booking is advised).
Note: If you want to sound like a local remember "Magdalen' is pronounced 'Maudlin.'