You may have heard I'm joining Jingle Books again this year - and that I'm doing a live reading from my newest novella, Stand & Deliver, plus leading you all in a yuletide game from the Regency era. Our game involves an apple, and I'm looking forward to sharing it with you. If you're a fan of the era, you'll know that Christmas games were well established in the Regency period, and below are a few I've dug up in my recent researches - some of which I'm glad are no longer popular.
It's worth remembering that one of the main reasons for these fun games, was to set up a connection a Regency lady or gentleman might not otherwise be permitted to show. Winning the games might appeal, but losers had to pay forfeits - and this could lead to romance - so don't miss our apple game.
Gane 1: Snapdragon
This lively activity required courage and fortitude. Brandy is poured into a shallow bowl. Nuts and raisins are sprinkled in the bowl as well. The brandy is set alight with a taper - and players are required to grab their treats from the burning bowl without incurring injury. (Who else is glad this one is no longer on trend?) Note: Regency children seemed to enjoy this game - hmmm??
Game 2: Bite the Bullet This one involves an actual homemade bullet - and again, children were encouraged to partake. A pudding mold is used to shape a pile of flour. A bullet is placed on the top of the flour 'pile', in the centre. Players then take turns cutting a slice of the 'pudding'. The idea is to avoid dislodging the bullet. If it falls as you're cutting, you must dig it from the flour - using your mouth. This player gets covered in flour. (You might recall a scene from the 2020 film adaptation of Austen's Emma, where Harriet is playing this seasonal game with her friends at Miss Goddard's boarding school.)
Game 3: Charades
This game is popular enough today, but it was something of a mania in the parlours of Regency England.
Game 4: Buffy Gruffy
This early version of Blindman’s buff involved some of the risqué touching that was often the purpose of parlour games in the first place.
The blindfolded player, stands in the centre of the room. Other players arrange their chairs in a circle. Then they trade places, in total silence if possible. The game begins when one person claps. The blindfolded player walks the circle, stopping in front of one chair. This player uses their knees to determine if the chair is occupied, requiring a bumping of knees and (likely) a fumbling of legs.
The blindfolded player questions the seated player, who must answer in a disguised voice. The blindfolded player has three questions only to discover the other player's identity. Then they must guess. If their guess is correct, the seated player takes the blindfold and play begins anew. Else, the blindfolded player moves on to question another seated player.
Winners & Losers:
The way to end an evening of yuletide games, is to 'cry the forfeits' - and this is when all debts from the evening must be settled. So, how does this work?
For each game, a loser (or losers, depending on the game) typically gives up a token. This is something small, like a pin or a woven tassel. Perhaps a thimble (shades of Peter Pan?).
The tokens are placed in a bag or box until the games are all over, and most players have 'a debt' to pay (i.e., a forfeit). At this point, the host/s or hostess/s 'cry the forfeits'. That is, they take up the container of trinkets and draw one out (possibly while blindfolded or closing their eyes). They say: “Here is a thing, and a very pretty thing; what shall be done by the owner of this very pretty thing?” Sometimes the holder of the token asks if it belongs to a man or a woman - and the forfeits vary accordingly.
Once ownership of the token is established, a forfeit is assigned in exchange for the return of the token. As this is my blog, I'm going to run through the Kissing Forfeits.
Some of the following forfeits may follow an evening of Christmas parlour games:
The Rabbit kiss: Two players nibble from each end of a piece of string - until they kiss. (Okay, Disney's got this one in Lady & the Tramp and I might object to Darcy and Lizzie being cast as canines).
Kiss your shadow: The forfeiting player has to kiss their shadow. (The trick is to make your shadow land across a person you wish to to kiss.)
For our ladies:
- Kiss the man you love best; the only way to do this without revealing his identity is to kiss every man in the room - scandalous!!!
- Kiss each corner of the room; typically four Regency gentlemen would station themselves in the room corners as soon as this one came up - because some things never change, and shooting your shot seems to be one of them.
For our gentlemen:
- Kiss every woman in the room while blindfolded; the assumption is that the ladies will switch places to add a little mystery to the kiss.
- Kiss the best; the gentleman must laugh at the wittiest, bow to the prettiest, and kiss 'her whom you love the best'.
So there are a few ideas to liven up your holiday season. Don't forget to join me LIVE at Jingle Books 3 Dec at 5-7pm. You'll need that apple! I didn't list my game above because - spoilers! ;-)