Raisin Weekend will be forever associated with St Andrews. It is not the only institution to celebrate the event, however. Lt. James Leech enlightens us on Raisin Weekends from around the world.
“I’ve seen many Raisin weekends in my time at The Saint. I’ve seen them across famine ravaged wastelands, war zones, and in Wales. Just like the tide and Bubble TV shooting that same ‘Raisin is crazy, whoopie!’ video, I feel no matter which country I am in for the first Sunday of November, encountering Raisin is inevitable.”
Different Raisin Weekends are a lot like Doner Kebabs: no-one is sure where they came from, everyone likes theirs with a different sauce and each one you have reduces your life expectancy by about 20 years.
Unlike the official University of St Andrews Raisin (aka Raisin Classic), which has morphed from an impromptu student-run event into a two-day protracted piece of prospectus padding to help drive enrolment, there are Raisin events around the globe still perpetuating the mad weekend’s true wacky message.
There are many variations on Raisin. In other countries it has transformed, the people adopting new skews on the old traditions. There has been controversy in shady Brazilian universities, where the common receipt was a fake passport, a bag of white powder and a plane ticket to LA. The challenge? ‘Don’t get caught’. At Utah university in the ‘Mormon corridor’ of America, first-years can enjoy one academic father and anything up to 20 mothers. In Dundee, the tribal elders celebrate Raisin Weekend by sacrificing the first-born son of every family to their gypsy God, ‘Knufki’.
Wide consensus says the ‘worst’ Raisin ever held was the 1933 Nuremberg Rally, in which dressing up was banned and there was to be absolutely no rough-housing. At the Monday foam fight every attendee forgot their shaving foam but remembered how to salute. Why was it such a damp squib? After reports of anti-social behaviour at the 1932 rally, Hitler was believed to have sent out a snotty email to all the would-be participants threatening to “change the tone of Raisin Sunday forever” if conduct did not improve.
Where did Raisin come from? Theories about the origins of Raisin weekend vary wildly, though many are little more than myth. One of the most startling proposals – from a group of historians with presumably nothing better to do – is that Raisin Weekend didn’t actually originate in St Andrews. They believe that Raisin was actually imported by two American JSA students in the early 2000s as a continuation of a tradition at their home university. The event was based on an infamous episode of the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond in which star Ray Romano is forced by his wife to dress up as a Soviet war criminal, moon an old lady at Sainsbury’s and drink himself into oblivion as punishment for beating his brother’s dog half to death with a calzone stuffed with D batteries.
The theory goes that ‘Raisin’ actually came from a mishearing of ‘Ray’s Sin’ – the name of the episode – and that the event as we know it today all spiralled from this intercontinental Chinese whisper.
I don’t care about the origin. Maybe it was all just misheard, but it serves a great purpose – bringing a smile to the face of every participant. Be it a Brazilian drug smuggler, enemy combatant or antibacterial soap drinking tramp, a good scavenger hunt does everyone a world of good.
I have a tip for any of you who were touched by the magic of Raisin and wish you could feel like that every day. I know a place that exists to preserve origins and traditions, that brings men and women together in the spirit of overcoming obstacles – be it a dirty pint or a cargo net. In this place, we believe a family is stronger than the sum of its parts – and we are a family 8,000 strong. Join in the spirit of unity, strength, discipline and honour. It’s a state of mind, you may already have it.
In the Royal Marines, every day is Raisin Sunday.