Formal Dinners in Cambridge


Long time since I’ve written a line in here, so time to add some more stuff about… Cambridge, also today’s topic. As promised, here’s a small explanation about the formal dinners in Cambridge.

Since I arrived here, I’ve been hearing several people mentioning that there were a formal in their college and they spoke about their past ones and so. I was really intrigued about them. Finally I came to a birthday – formal in Churchill College, where a colleague of mine belongs to, and another in my College, Catz (St. Catherine’s) for Burn’s night (typical Scottish night). So now I’m in a position of a beginner to explain roughly some things.

  • What? Is it a dinner. It includes two dishes, dessert and water. Normally wine is not included and you have to bring it on your own. After the dinner there’s uses to be time to take a drink in the MCR (Middle Common Room), which is the meeting place for graduates.
  • Who? Formals are organized by the college student’s committee. They are mainly aimed to the people who belongs to the college, but most of people uses to bring guestes from other colleges or other people who doesn’t belong to Cambridge University.
  • When? Normally weekly on a specific day. Mine are on Thursdays, but other colleges held theirs on different days, which is really good, because you avoid some dinner-clashes 😉 On special occasions there are extra formals, such as Halloween, New Year, Burn’s night, etc.
  • Where? Dinner are hold in the college restaurant, which most of the times is a big room with pictures of old important people, but it depends on the college. The modern ones tend to do without this kind of fuddy-duddy stuff. Dinner is served in long tables, totally like Harry Potter hall.
  • How? There are severe etiquette rules. As a general rule, men shall wear a suit and a tie or a bow tie. For women is less restrictive, but a nice dress and shoes uses to be the standard. Normally you can’t sit until the fellows are sited in their tables. Sometimes there are pre and post lecture in Latin. In some colleges it seems to be any kind of bathroom restrictions during dinner, which I can’t understand at all.
  • Why? For fun I guess. Because it’s tradition. I suppose is because keeping in contact people from you own college and have a chance to socially interact with other college students.

Finally I leave a couple of pictures from this two formals.

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