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Christmas Formal Tradition

Each Christmas, Grahame Appleby, Head Porter at the College since 2001, leads the carol singing in Hall after the annual Christmas Formals. We caught up with him to hear about this wonderful tradition and how it came about.

“I joined the College as a porter after leaving the Army, the Corps of Royal Military Police in October 1994. At that time, Peter Bacon was the Head Porter and Peter Stretton was the Deputy Head Porter. Alongside their daily responsibilities, they both carried out duties in Formal Hall, ensuring that standards of behaviour were maintained.

Back in 1994 we only had one Christmas Formal where both Hall and Upper Hall were used.  Today we have three Christmas Formals and only Hall is used. 

It has become somewhat of a tradition that the Head Porter leads the Carol singing after dinner. I do not know when this tradition started, but I do know that Peter Bacon did this every year and loved every minute of it. It is not known if he actually started it, but I suspect he did. I took over from Peter in 2001 after he retired, and if I am honest, I am proud to carry it on.

Christmas Formal starts the same as every other Hall during the year.  The only difference being that some students wear Christmas lights, baubles and the traditional Santa’s hat!  At the end of service, the Head Porter will make his way to the front of Hall. 

We traditionally start with Jingle Bells and as soon as the Head Porter bursts into song, everyone joins in. I usually then have a little walk around, pouncing on some unsuspecting student to start singing We Wish You A Merry Christmas, and once again everyone joins in.

Then it is the turn of the outgoing or incoming members of the JCSU or May Ball Committee, depending upon who is attending Hall that evening. They get to come up to the front and sing the first verse of Walking In A Winter Wonderland, after which everyone joins in.

We normally then sing, well I say sing, another song such as Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, which goes down very well. The evening concludes with a rousing rendition of The Twelve Days Of Christmas, and that always gets the students on their feet.  

This is a lovely way to end Michaelmas Term and it will certainly carry on whilst I am Head Porter. As to whether or not it carries on after this, we will wait and see, but I really hope it does.”


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