Parlour Games

In the days before Ipad, freeview, DVD, Video games and television parlour games were the entertainment for a Christmas Day afternoon.

Church had been attended, lunch was eaten and now the afternoon presented itself for fun and games as opposed to feeling fat and sitting vegged out watching ‘Christmas fools and horses’ repeats.

First off we have:

For about 300 years until the beginning of the 20th century, no English Christmas Eve celebration would have been complete without a hearty game of snapdragon. It’s simple enough: you pile raisins in a bowl of brandy, turn out the lights, set fire to the brandy, and then try to snatch the goodies out of the bowl and eat them while they’re still alight. If you manage to do this without setting fire to your fingers, your tongue or your parlour, you’ve won.

That doesn’t really sound like much fun to me and also a little on the dangerous side with flames and all!

For a bit of mindless violence you could try

Are you there, Moriarty?
Two players are blindfolded and lie face down, head-to-head, holding each other by the left hand. Their seconds hand them each a rolled-up newspaper. (Just between us, broadsheet papers are better for this game. Don’t buy one specially, though.) The first player calls out “Are you there, Moriarty? “, his opponent replies “Yes”, and the first player smacks him on the head as hard as he can with his rolled-up newspaper, using the voice as a clue to where his head is. Then the victim takes his turn. At a superficial level, the art of this game appears to be in the bluff and double-bluff involved in twisting your arm one way but moving the other, saying “Yes” and then moving before you can be hit, and so on. In practice, though, the game normally proceeds quite quickly to a deeper level in which one of the players secretly removes his blindfold and just hits his opponent repeatedly over the head. Proper etiquette in this situation dictates that none of the spectators should warn the victim as to what’s going on. 

a variation of this is called:

You and your opponent lie on your backs, side-by-side, with your feet pointing in opposite directions, and link your right arms at the elbow (ie, your heads will be next to each other’s waists). Then you both lift your right legs vertically and hook them around each other. The winner is the one who can pull his opponent’s heels over his/her head in a somersault.

This sounds like fun:

Reverend Crawley’s game
This is a really excellent game in which nobody gets hit but everybody wins. It provides gentle exercise, enforced intimacy, and ultimately has the effect of a conjuring trick, so there really isn’t much to be said against it and everybody should give it a go – trust us.

You need at least seven or eight players, preferably more. You all stand in a circle and link hands – but not with the people on either side of you, and not both hands with the same person. This has the effect of turning the group into a huge human knot, and your joint task is to untie it. You work together to step over each other, crawl under people’s arms, climb through gaps, and so on – all without letting go of the hands you’re holding.

The outcome is truly bizarre and counter-intuitive: the knot virtually always unties into a single ring of people holding hands in a circle (or, occasionally, two interlinked rings).

and above we have Ruth Goodman from BBC 2 Victorian Christmas showing us some Victorian Parlour games.


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