May Day – Greeting the Month the Student Way

May Day With May Day and the excitement of the Bank Holiday Weekend just around the corner – we thought we’d take a look at some of the UK universities that have a tradition associated with May Day. Why not either join in or start one up yourself?

The Weird – University of Oxford Oxford’s May Day celebrations are notorious, if only because they’re somewhat bizarre. Everyone stays up all night – pretty conventional for students so far – then piles onto Magdalen Bridge at 6am. Why? Well, to watch a lovely choir sing! Then there’s the traditional tussle to get past the police to jump into the freezing cold river (why? Tradition, apparently) before it’s off to the pub whilst avoiding the Morris dancers who have all miraculously appeared.

The Folky – Durham University A relatively recent tradition, but Durham’s May Day celebrations go right back to earlier British roots. Similar to Oxford’s in a way, but there’s less diving into rivers and more folk music and dancing. Plus, there’s a barbeque breakfast. This is definitely a part of the tradition worth stealing.

The Naked – University of St Andrews Once again, a tradition marked by staying up all night, possibly with alcohol involved. However, instead of tottering off to a bridge in the early hours of the morning, St Andrews’ students instead head down to the beach and run into the North Sea at sunrise! Whilst not everyone strips – it is, after all, in Scotland, and incredibly cold – many do. If you’re looking for a more risque inspiration, this is the one to watch.

The Festival – The University Of Edinburgh Whilst not a student-specific tradition, it’s a tradition nonetheless, and a good one at that. Up in Edinburgh, May morning is host to the Beltane Fire Festival. Inspired by ancient Gaelic rites, it’s supported by The University of Edinburgh’s school of Scottish Studies. A celebration of theatre, art, ritual and music, it’s an awe-inspiring sight and definitely one of the more cultural celebrations of the day.

The Academic – Various Universities Many university use this memorable date as a celebration of their past, present and future. With alumni reunions, schemes to get older graduates involved with the mentorship of younger ones, it can be a time to reflect on what your university did for you and may still do. Plus, it’s a nice excuse to have a break from exams.

However you choose to celebrate May Day, find out what your friends at other universities are doing – many towns and cities in the UK have their own local takes on this fateful day, and you might just find something the catches your interest enough to visit or adapt yourself.

Related Links: University Holidays
Organising Friends To Visit Whilst Studying Abroad 

Leave a comment

All contributors must be over 16 year olds

By submitting your comment you agree to our privacy policy.

Register with

  • Exclusive bursaries
  • Open day alerts
  • Funding advice
  • Application tips
  • Latest PG news
Sign up now