December 23, 2012

Parlour games were extremely popular as Christmas activities throughout the nineteenth century. Victorians games such as Snapdragon, Charades, Forfeits, Hoop and Hide (Hide and Seek),  Blind Man’s Bluff, Queen of Sheba (a variation on Blind Man’s Bluff), and Hunt the Slipper.

In Snapdragon players gathered around a bowl of currants covered with spirits. A lighted match was dropped into the bowl, setting fire to the alcohol. Players challenged one another to grab a flaming currant out of the bowl and pop it into their mouths to extinguish the flames. Players heightened the effect of the glowing blue flames by putting out all other lights in the room.

In Hunt the Slipper players formed a circle around one person. They held their hands behind their backs and passed a slipper around the outside of the circle. The person in the center of the circle had to guess who had the slipper at any given moment.

Before a Christmas party broke up for the evening, the sleepy guests might play one last game called Yawning for a Cheshire Cheese. The players sat in a circle and yawned at one another. Whoever produced the longest, most open-mouthed and loudest yawn won a Cheshire cheese.

A number of other English Christmas games have now disappeared completely and only their names remain behind with no inkling on how to play them.  These forgotten games include Puss-in-the-Corner, Shoeing the Wild Mare, Steal the White Loaf, Post and Pair, Feed the Dove,  and the The Parson Has Lost His Cloak.

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