Charlton-on-Otmoor Garland Ceremony

Where: Charlton-on-Otmoor, Oxon at St Mary the Virgins Church
When: Schoolday near 1 May
Time: 9.30 Procession at School,10 am at Church, Dancing after at School



May song

The Garland at Charlton-on-Otmoor is a rare survival of a church decorating custom and it takes place each May and September. A cross-shaped figure on top of the rood screen has its greenery replaced by the churchwardens and children also bring a long floral garland to a special service, which is followed by maypole and country dancing. Before the service, the children gather with the Garland outside the church then process through the village, stopping at intervals to sing their special May Song; when we visited in 2017 the May Queen and King travelled in style in a very smart horse-drawn trap. The service is about half-an-hour long and has many well-known tunes for the hymns, and at the beginning the Garland is hung in place on the screen. Following the service, all make their way back to the school where refreshments are available and after a short break the May Queen is crowned, then all the children get the chance to show their dancing skills (they were very well practised!).

Helpful Hints

As the local school children take a major role, the event is held on a schooldays, usually near May 1st but sometimes later in the month to fit in with school holidays and other commitments.

In 2017 it was on Friday May 26th at 9.30 at the School, then 10 am at the Church. I was originally given a starting time of 11, but this was corrected very near the date so I’d advise double-checking with either the Church or School if you’re planning to visit! The 2018 date is yet to be announced.

The garlands stay in place after the ceremony for visitors to enjoy.

Click here for the Church contact details:

and here for the school:

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