Raisin began life innocently enough as a means of informally welcoming new
Students to the university, providing a tradition through which they could integrate themselves with the community and tighten their bonds with their families. Back then, a pound of raisins would be presented by freshers to their academic parents as thanks for their warm welcome to St Andrews. Nowadays, however, those raisins have morphed into bottles of wine – a telling reflection of the central role played by alcohol in modern Raisin festivities. Whether in the form of punishments, endless calls of “down it fresher!” or just the casual acceptance of getting blackout drunk before lunch-time, the consumption of alcohol has become synonymous with last weekend. Unfortunately I was witness to the dark underside of Raisin last year.
One friend – let’s call him Michael – began his Raisin Sunday with a 6am wake-up call for a run on West Sands with his brothers and sisters. Oh no! I hear you cry. That must have been horribly cold and wet! Yes, it was. However, what about when tequila shots are added to that equation? Needless to say, I remember Michael and his sister drunkenly asleep on the floor of my hall at 10 am later that morning, with a crowd of curious fresher’s nearby, myself included, bracing ourselves for what our parents had in store for us next.
But Michael’s Raisin morning did not stop there. Indeed, I spied him at lunch, very much the worse for wear, piling chips onto his plate in a last-ditch attempt to sober up for the afternoon’s escapades.
With the trauma of that day now safely behind me, I find myself questioning the value of this sort of torture. Such cruelty is no way welcome first years to our fine community.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, two of my other friends battled to find alcohol in their mum’s apartment, eventually resorting to sneaking some from her roommate. They have since wondered what their Raisin would have been like if even slightly tipsy, joining in with the ‘jolly’ fresher’s along Market Street and the Scores. They were stone cold sober until their Dad’s party at 7pm and, to this day, can remember every joyous detail. Crucially, though, they both recall it being one of the best experiences of their first year – full of all the frivolities such as the scavenger hunt without being coerced to drink over their limits.
My Raisin was a mixture of good and bad. Even though my sisters and I weaved our way through town with slightly blurry vision, we were lucky enough not to find ourselves with our heads down a bin later that afternoon. I remember the afternoon very fondly. That was until my dad’s party. As per the nouveau-tradition of drinking, I was greeted with shots of absinthe and a 50/50 mix of vodka and coke. I do not remember attending a hall party later on (despite the rather unflattering photos which appear to prove otherwise), and am ashamed to say that I swapped the foam fight for a morning in bed with a bin in easy reach. Had I not drunk that night, I would have taken part in what must be the most important tradition of Raisin weekend.
And here lies the crux of Raisin. Whilst the day itself, alcohol or not, is certainly an experience to remember, it must be emphasized that Raisin is the chance to make friends for the remainder of your university career, if not your life. If you actually get along with your parents then you simply have nothing to worry about – if you have similar interests, senses of humor and personalities then nothing will stand in the way of your Raisin being truly memorable. Your day is not measured by the number of shots you’ve downed, but the experiences you’ve shared.
As a second year, I had the pleasure of revenging my parents this year. We may have had the odd drink, but ultimately it was about being silly and embarrassing each other – far better to actually be able to remember it in all of its grizzly detail. I got to spend quality time with my family; my parents who will graduate this year, and my sisters with whom I’ve bonded so much. It was the perfect way to give back to the people who welcomed me here so warmly, and all the better for being sober.