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Christmas Ball: A Night at the Nutcracker Reviewed

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at St. Andrews chapter.

A celebration of the season in the most classic way, this year’s Christmas Ball: A Night at the Nutcracker was a feast for the senses.  From sweet and savory snacks, to sultry jazz and a cappella performances, to stunning decorations in every nook and cranny of Kinkell, guests were swept away into the Sugar Plum realm from the moment they entered the door.

Of course, before this door could be reached, however, tickets needed to be procured, and having just flown in from Heathrow the morning of the ball, I can say with some authority that the level of security around ticket collection was higher than that at customs.  Guests were made to produce a negative lateral flow test, proof of vaccination, a matric card, and government issued ID all before they could receive their wristband, firmly affixed by a Mermaids administrator to avoid any last-minute transfers.  However, in light of both the recent uptick in covid cases and drink spiking incidents, it was a relief to see the committee taking the safety of its guests so seriously.  

But, wristbands secured (double entendre very much intended), students were set to enjoy a wonderful evening.  With the bar to the right of the entrance glitteringly bedecked in pink chiffon and twinkling rosy Christmas trees, while the bar to the left boasted the famous upside down Christmas trees and beguiling piles of artificial snow, there were plenty of tempting options for refreshment after that first glass of complimentary champagne was downed (it was very cold, ok?).  However, wilier attendees made straight for the food tent, this year themed around the Nutcracker’s “Land of Sweets,” and got in line for their complimentary crepe to beat off the chill.  

The first few hours of the ball were a time for mingling and catching up with friends over a beverage or two, with festive mood music provided by the ever-talented ensemble that is JazzWorks.  Unlike many St Andrews events, which start later in the evening and throw attendees straight into the action, Christmas Ball provides a refreshing opportunity to dress up and socialize a bit earlier in the night before the party really gets going.  For those still nibbling in the Land of Sweets Marquee, musical entertainment was provided by the Hummingbirds and the Other Guys, who were tragically difficult to hear over the chatter of hungry visitors.

As the evening wore on, the atmosphere shifted into a more traditional St Andrews night out, if an infinitely better dressed one.  At 10pm, DJ Tim Berger took to the stage, and guests took the dance floor, reveling in classic club tunes.  However, it was St Andrews’ favorite, Albion, (known to his nearest and dearest as Ben Hawken) who truly brought down the house, playing a mashup of greatest hits that made you forget your tight suit jacket or pinching heels and want to dance until dawn.  

As luck (or rather lack thereof) would have it, this nearly became the case for those who opted to stick it out until the ball’s close.  With so many guests still at the venue at the end of the night, there were not enough buses to accommodate the crowds, and a crushing and dangerous queue of desperate students formed, clamouring to board.  Many guests were left stranded at Kinkell until nearly 3am, as more buses had to circle back to retrieve them.  

However, arguably more concerning was the absence of security on the other end of the return trip.  While guards had been, shall we say, “officious” earlier in the evening when it came to ensuring that no alcohol was snuck into the venue, and indeed snipping off the wristbands of several unfortunates who were unlucky to be caught attempting to smuggle in pick-me-ups, by the end of the evening, all Union security appeared to have vanished.  As is often the case at such events, many merry-makers were sent home early by Kinkell security, having imbibed too heavily.  However, these students were simply thrust onto buses, frequently without being given the chance to inform their friends of the situation, or even to retrieve coats containing wallets and house keys.  Worse still, there was no system in place on the other end to ensure that these students got home safely, and many students, so incapacitated that they were incapable of getting themselves home, had to rely on the kindness of strangers to find them Taxis, flatmates, or in one severe instance, emergency assistance.  While this was no fault of the Christmas Ball committee, as a Union-operated event, there certainly should have been more care taken to ensure the safe send off and return of students.  

In spite of these hiccups, however, the ball was viewed by everyone this author has spoken to as a smashing success.  From the musical entertainment, to the delicious snacks, to the addition of the ‘Victorian Living Room’ (a tasteful “quiet space” for those experiencing sensory or alcohol overload to take a moment to recover in relative peace), it was certainly a celebration of Christmas in a classic and charming fashion.  

Alexandra is a fourth year at the University of St Andrews in Scotland studying English and Modern History. She is also the founding president and editor-in-chief for the St Andrews Her Campus chapter, and can usually be found buried in a theatre rehearsing for the next musical, opera, or play. In her spare time, she loves writing creative fiction, traveling, and generally enjoying living in Scotland!