Perhaps the most crazy and unique part of being a bejant or bejantine at the University of St Andrews is that you get the chance to participate in the madness of Raisin Weekend. In my last St Andrews Traditions post I wrote a little about the academic families which are cobwebbed across the town – this post will detail what Raisin Weekend is like, both from the point of view of an academic child and a parent!
Raisin Weekend traditionally falls on the second weekend of November, although this year it’s been brought forward so that it doesn’t clash with Remembrance Sunday. Raisin Weekend is actually a bit of a misnomer too, as the events traditionally fall upon a Sunday and Monday, with most academic departments giving students the Monday morning off of class or tutorials, in order that they can participate.
The short version of the history of Raisin Weekend is that for a long time, older students would introduce new students to the town, and in thanks, new students would present their mentors with a pound of raisins – hence the name. However, those students who didn’t adequately thank the older students would be at risk of being looked poorly upon, and sometimes even dunked in a fountain – so older students started giving out receipts for their raisin gifts. This tradition has passed through the decades and been twisted somewhat, but it’s the basis for the Raisin Weekend shenanigans of today.
On Raisin Sunday, academic children are invited to the house of their academic mother for ‘afternoon tea’. This afternoon tea can often start very early – think at 11am – and mother’s usually make an effort to feed their kids breakfast, as this afternoon tea can often be quite alcohol-heavy. When I was a bejantine, my academic mum made pancakes and bacon sandwiches for all of her kids, and when I had my own academic children, they were made waffles and breakfast rolls along with lots of milky tea!
Once mum’s are convinced that all kids
are fed have had their stomach lined, the next ‘must-do’ for mums is ensure that their kids have their name and address (or at least hall name) written prominently on their extremities. This may sound extreme, but there are a lot of kids who get very very drunk over Raisin Weekend, and are helped home by friendly souls, who work out where to send them via these notes. For kids, if you do get drunk and don’t know how to get home, the Union is a good place to head to, as the friendly team there will ensure that you get home safely.
Next is onto the real fun – what is afternoon tea without party games?! The games which take place at a Raisin Tea Party vary from the simple get-to-kn0w-everyone drinking games (think never-ever-have-I-ever or Ring of Fire / Kings) through to the more active ‘pass a spoon on a piece of string up your trousers and then down the top of the person behind you and continue’. Perhaps the most entertaining game for the kids is the scavenger hunt which the kids often have to participate in. Sending the kids out with a list of tasks that they have to complete is hilarious – especially when they have to get photographic evidence of leap-frogging in Tesco, or cramming 5 people in a phonebox. Perhaps my favourite memory of the scavenger hunt my kids were sent on was making all of them – plus their cousins from my academic sister – go and stand outside the union and sing Christmas Carols! I may write a post about the best party games for Raisin Weekend in another post, if I think people are interested in them!
A lot of the party games do revolve around frolics (my kids instigated a flour party after we’d finished making them breakfast!) and drinking, so kids who don’t drink can feel awkward over Raisin Weekend. However, the Union often put on an alcohol-free Raisin Sunday – often with pyjamas, movies and popcorn, which is open to all – and no one should ever feel forced to drink anything they don’t want by their academic parents. If you don’t want to drink, or you feel like you’ve had enough, just say no. However, it is traditional that academic kids give both their academic mum and dad a bottle of wine – a modern alternative to that pound of raisins! However, do ask your parents if you can swap it for another gift if you don’t want to give wine as a gift.
That being said, once the party games by academic mums are done, kids are usually collected by their academic dad’s to be taken on what was traditionally a tour of all of the pubs and bars in St Andrews – but these days it’s just as likely to be taking the kids to a number of house parties. Basically, this is a chance for academic dad’s to introduce their kids to one another and to all of the older family members and friends. Sometimes there are more games, and dad’s have even been known to take the kids out for a nice meal – but the night often gets pretty messy by bedtime!
On Monday morning, the fun starts all over again – kids have to be up early to go and find their academic dad and receive their Raisin Receipt. Where once this receipt would have just been a piece of paper with the Latin phrase on, these days anything goes -well, as long as you own it and it’s not alive! From old washing machines to boats to sofas to buckets filled with slime or cake mix or coke exploding out of a 2 litre bottle! As long as it has the specific Latin phrase written on it somewhere, it’ll pass for a Raisin Receipt!
Once kids have received that all-important Raisin Receipt, kids head back to their mum’s to be dressed. Fancy dress, student style is order of the day – so think cheap, cheerful and made of whatever can be found in the town! You can see outfits which range from the super-inventive (like the entire Hungry Caterpillar) or super easy – like a waddle of penguins (made of black bin liners with white ovals added on, and beak hats and orange feet). There are usually also plenty of condoms (people just wrapped in cling-film) and face-paint everywhere!
Once kids are dressed, and with Raisin Receipt in hand, everyone heads over to St Salvator’s (Sallies) Quad. The road outside the quad is usually closed, and there will be a massive crowd of people watching the kids go in! Kids are supposed to throw their raisin receipt into a skip, which is there to collect all of the discarded stuff – and then kids head into the quad, and into the biggest foam fight in Europe! All of the first years take a couple of cans of shaving foam into the quad, and once they are inside, there is absolutely no way to stay clean! Let me say, from experience, shaving foam gets everywhere - up your nose, in your ears – and it tastes disgusting! However, running about the quad, showing people with shaving foam and trying to work out who everyone is when covered in white foam is hilarious, and I recommend it to every first-year!
Once the foam fight is over (it lasts for an hour, but don’t feel like you have to stay for all of it!) people all usually head home to shower, head to class or sleep off their hangovers! Just as a warning, however – if you’re covered in foam, no taxi driver will allow you in his cab, and most shops also ban people from entering. Also – if you’re in halls with shared bathrooms – expect queues for showers – so if you can ‘borrow’ a shower at your academic mum’s, it’s generally a good plan! If anyone has any questions about Raisin Weekend, or want ideas for games or raisin receipts or costumes, just leave a message and I can leave some ideas!Carley