St Andrews is an historic university noted for its varied traditions. Raisin Weekend is one specifically targeted toward the newest class of students attending the university, intending to welcome the first year cohort to the university and encourage them to feel at home in the wider academic community.
Historically, an upper-class student, typically in their third year, would be partnered with one or two first year students as a sort of mentor. The upper-class student would tour the university and the town with the first year, answering questions and acting as a support system for the younger student. To thank the older student, the first year would present him or her with a bag of raisins, hence the reference to the dried snack.
As notions of propriety have evolved over time, so too have the festivities for this mentorship tradition. Today, an upper-class student will “adopt” one or several first year students (including older students who are studying abroad at St Andrews for a semester or a year). At times, friend will partner together to create an academic “family”, complete with any combination of “parental” figures, extended “family” groups, and so on. Raisin festivities begin with the academic “mother” hosting her “children” for a breakfast at her home, followed by a scavenger hunt for the first year students to better acquaint themselves with the town and its traditions. The first years will then move on to their academic “father”, being taken to various homes for different house parties for the opportunity to meet more students and socialize. The following day, the first years are brought again to their “mother’s” home for breakfast. Later, they are dressed in costumes to be taken to a large shaving foam fight held in St Salvatore’s Quad. Along the way, the “children” must pick up an object, known as a “Raisin Receipt”, from their academic “father” to present as a means of entry into the quad.
For my Raisin Weekend, my academic mother dressed my siblings and I as Arthur’s knights of the round table and Merlin, carrying the Holy Grail to Arthur who lay injured in Sallie’s Quad. Raisin Weekend was quite a bit of fun, and I feel as though I should begin planning something just as memorable for my own academic children two years from now.
Originally written 19 November 2012