Cambridge Christmas Pennying

Christmas in Cambridge is special for several reasons, we especially like the Christmas carols and the Christmas parties, as well as the Christmas market in the city centre of Cambridge, England. Luckily, Christmas is not boring in this beloved little town, in fact, there are many things to do in Cambridge at Christmas.

Pennying – Ruan Kendall Photography

But if you manage to get behind the exterior of the famous colleges, which make up Cambridge University (yes the multiple buildings stand for the single entity of the top tier university), you will see beautiful and strange things going on.

For instance, one of the (Christmas) drinking traditions of students in (Cambridge) colleges is to drown the queen or save the queen. Especially male students like to test the queen’s survival skills. How is it done?

Students will hover around, and seemingly take every opportunity to drop their queen faced pennies into random wine glasses. On dropping the penny, they will shout “the Queen is drowning!”. At this point if you are the glass holder, you are expected to save the queen by knocking your wine down quickly. That is the whole point of this bizarre Pennying student tradition in Cambridge (and elsewhere in England). So guard your goblet well, if you like slowly sipping away your wine. And save the queen.

Pennying is especially prevalent in Cambridge at formal hall swaps, like Christmas parties, it may even be a sort of a social ice breaker among the many international students, and complete strangers. What makes it more easily done is that at Christmas parties, students only pay a nominal fee for the wine they are supposed to bring themselves. This 1 pound prices is called the Corkage Fee. So students can easily buy cheaper bottles of wines to sustain this tradition. It would work less in a pub where paying for the wines is more expensive.

But according to Daily Mail,

Pennying, a game in which students drop coins in a glass then knock drinks back in one to retrieve them, is being partly blamed for rowdy and drunken behaviour. Several Cambridge colleges have now banned it at formal dinners and imposed a limit of half a bottle of wine on undergraduates at the events.

Mind you, pennying can even be done with a jug of water, as in this photo.

You can read about a Christmas party at Newnham College, Cambridge through and American expat’s eyes on a Lady in London.

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