Your official guide to Raisin

Image: Rachel Obordo


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Additionally, please make sure you stick to the buddy system and always be sensible about how much you drink.



Purchase in advance

This is the biggest weekend in our academic calendars, so don’t be the parents who throw the lame party because all the party supplies were sold out when you made the Sunday morning dash. Set aside an afternoon to stock up on all the weekend essentials: fill your shopping trolley with plentiful non-brand alcohol, bottles of water, foam cans, weird and wacky costume pieces and (sorry to say) cleaning utensils.

It is the little things that make Raisin memorable, so take the time to get creative and make fun personalised name tags for your children (equipped with their names and your contact details). Also decorate your flat with streamers and banners, charge up your camera to capture memories for the family album and have the oven heated up to prepare those bacon rolls to welcome your kids.

Be a quick learner

For those who are first-time parents, learning on the spot is an essential skill to acquire. Much like looking after a bundle of new-born joy, our grown up teenage children will still need you to be by their side, spoon feeding them at all times.

Children can be unpredictable – one minute they can appear to be chirping away happily to the other children, and the very next moment, that 17th glass of white wine spritzer can spell total disaster. Before you can locate your better half for moral support, your child may be sobbing, violently throwing up behind your sofa, or worse still – completely missing.

This is where you can benefit from forward planning: before your Raisin party, plan out these following steps, which will be paramount in relocating your lost and very confused child:

  1. Time how long it takes you to run round every room in your flat (you should get this down to approximately 30 seconds), as the likelihood is that your child has attempted to locate the bathroom.
  2. Locate every possible hiding place in the flat (children can be incredibly creative), as your child may find have gone to look for a quiet place for an afternoon nap.
  3. Map out the most direct route (which, should be noted, is not always the most logical) from your flat to the nearest take-away shop in town. When kids want chips, there is no stopping them.

Gang up

All good parents should know that children need constant entertaining. Even smarter parents will know that there is safety in numbers. Whether you are the mums hosting the children through the daytime or the dads who get custody at night, get your friends on-board. Inter-family games and competitions are the way forward.  It takes the pressure off you as an individual having to provide all the entertainment, and children always enjoy a bit of friendly rivalry.

Meet your fellow parents before the weekend, and each bring a game idea to the drawing board and make a schedule for the day: you may wish to even share out your flats – use activities like scavenger hunts or three-legged races to move the babble of excitable children from one flat to another.


Stick together

You have academic siblings for a reason – they are your support network.  Raisin Weekend is a family occasion, and so don’t spend it quibbling with your brother as to who has to run to Starbucks to buy mummy the venti mocha she demanded. Instead, work as a team: one of you run for the coffee and the other grab the accompanying muffin.

Amongst your siblings, get your game plan on and tactfully work your way through challenges – make your parents hold back tears of pride as you annihilate the other kids at inter-family games.

Respect your elders

Raisin Weekend is the wrong time to display your dark, inner teenage mood swings. Be rude to your elders and you will be punished, and believe me, your parents do have the resources to make you suffer.

Whether that punishment comes in the form of being paraded down Market Street in a rather embarrassing ensemble, or being asked to drink the increasingly viscous dirty pint that has been festering all day, you will be made to regret that cheeky comment about your auntie’s extra-marital affair.

Remember your weekend

Yes, go out, have fun, get drunk and undertake some crazy (but totally legal) antics. But be sure that you can remember every second of the weekend – it could well prove to be a crowning memory of your time spent here.

One day, you too may be a parent. And by gosh it’s always fun to inflict upon your children the same pains that were inflicted on you during your Raisin Weekend.

History of the Raisin traditions

The University of St Andrews officially ended its 600th Anniversary celebrations last year.  With such an established University comes a wealth of traditions. Yet, while both parents and children alike never fail to enjoy Raisin Weekend, many among us have no real understanding of the history underlying the festivities. So here’s our guide to the whole messy weekend.

Academic Families

Raisin Weekend is an annual celebration that centres on the principle of an academic family unit. Third year parents adopt Bejants/Bejantines (first years), in order to guide and encourage them through their time at university.

In the earliest days of the tradition, the incoming first year students were allocated to chaperoning senior students, whereas today a rigorous adoption policy is in order – a crazy free-for-all during the first weeks of term – as the responsibility falls upon the parents to seek out their own children.


It is thought that the tradition was born during the earliest years of the University and that its name stems from the gift that the grateful children bestowed upon their loving parents: a pound of raisins. In a time when students would live on a very basic staple diet, raisins were seen as an extravagant luxury.

Yet over the years the gift of appreciation has evolved into something more contemporary, as nowadays it more common to reward the efforts of your parents with a nice bottle of wine.

Raisin Sunday

The Sunday celebrations traditionally began with a tea party at the mother’s house. Nowadays, anything goes. The mums can collect their children at any point during the day and then enforce weird and wonderful games and activities (most likely accompanied by alcohol, not tea) upon them.

Towards the late afternoon the children are passed on to their fathers, for what was traditionally a tour of the bars and pubs about town. Now, the fathers usually host a rowdy flat party to allow for a continuation of drinking – that does mean the dads are responsible for the almost inevitable results.

Raisin Monday

Raisin strings: Waking up after not many hours of sleep, the children are yet again presented to their mothers.  The mum dresses up her children in fancy dress and attaches a raisin string to their outfits. The number of strings present represents the year that the mother is currently in: if in third year, her strings consist of blue, crimson, gold threads, while a black string is added if she is in fourth year. Weaved into the string is small token gift that has been selected to characterise the child who receives it.

Raisin receipts: Of course, in every family, there are naughty children. In order to differentiate between the grateful and ungrateful children, it was custom for parents to write their children a Latin receipt etched onto parchment in acknowledgement of receiving their raisins. Thus, if a child was found to not be in possession of such a written word, they were thrown into a town fountain as punishment. Like the gift of raisins, the embodiment of the receipt has changed with the times.  Now it is the job of the father to provide his children with a receipt of considerable size and absurdity, and force them to carry it through town on the way to the foam fight.

Foam fight

No one seems able to pin down the origin of this tradition. All that can be said is that this event is seen by many as the most memorable part of the weekend.

After dragging the raisin receipts through town and disposing of them, the children are ushered onto Lower College Lawn where they take part in a gigantic foam fight with all of the other first year children. Commencing around 11am on the Monday morning, the fight lasts for about an hour, and consists of squirting shaving foam at anyone that comes within an arm’s length of you.

Photos: Rachel Obordo, Caitlin Hamilton


  1. Abbotsford students made it into the nation press last year when its drunken rabble knocked over an elderly woman on her way to church and left her lying in the gutter. I wonder which residence or flat-based drunks will succeed in bringing the university into disrepute this year.


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