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Christmas Games Old and New


Last updated 12/24/2019 at 3:06pm

A Victorian-era game of "Snapdragon." ILLUSTRATION By Gabriel Nicolet

By Lucie Winborne

The shopping and wrapping are done, the tree is decked out with lights and tinsel. You've hung the holly and you've frosted the cookies, and now you're ... a bit tired of watching the same old Christmas movies and hearing the same carols on the radio. How about taking a leaf from our ancestors' book and gathering the family and friends for some Christmas-themed games instead?


From the 16th century onward, a good Christmas Eve party quite likely included a boisterous game of "Snapdragon." The premise, as zany as it is simple, called for pouring a couple dozen raisins in the bottom of a shallow bowl, followed by a bottle of brandy. With lights dimmed and brandy ignited, participants took turns trying to snag a raisin, and, if successful, extinguish it by eating it. (Note: We take no responsibility for any burns sustained while imitating this at your house!)


Those of a bit less daring nature might have enjoyed a game of "Shadows," in which an individual sat in front of a white tablecloth or sheet hung in a darkened room, with a lamp behind it. The rest of the party then took turns passing in front of the lamp, so the viewer could guess their identities by their shadows. To make things more challenging, participants maneuvered their bodies or clothing however possible, though if the guesser correctly identified them, they were subject to a forfeit or taking the guesser's place.

Questions and Commands

A precursor to today's "Truth or Dare." Failure to follow a command, or answer a question, would either cost you a fine or get your face blackened with fireplace soot!

The Messenger

Reminiscent of "Simon Says," this parlor game involved one player entering the room and addressing another with "My master sends me to you, madam" (or sir). At the response of "What for?" the messenger would perform a simple but silly action for the responder to repeat, with each guest doing so in turn until everyone in the room was in motion, after which the messenger would exit and reenter the room with a new command. Stop moving too soon, and you'd pay a forfeit.

Blindfold Christmas Drawing

Back in the 21st century, try tapping into your artistic side with "Blindfold Christmas Drawing." Grab some markers and paper plates, then have one player describe a Christmas scene while everyone else -- blindfolded, of course! -- tries to render it on their plate. The most accurate drawing wins.

Pin the Nose on Rudolph

Little ones especially will enjoy "Pin the Nose on Rudolph," or "Find Santa's Friends," in which toy elves and reindeer are hidden around the house like Easter eggs. And for the older fry, a holiday version of "Two Truths and a Lie" can generate a lot of ingenuity and laughs by asking players to name three Christmas gifts, only two of which they actually received at some point, with the rest of the group trying to guess which one's a fake.

The fun is limited only by your imagination. Happy holiday gaming!

(c) 2019 King Features Syndicate, Inc.


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