Christmas games have a long tradition, stretching back beyond the parlour games and charades of Jane Austen’s time. In the Victorian era there were a vast number of games books published and playing Christmas games became something of an obsession. These days of course many of the games have migrated onto the computer.
In my childhood home we didn’t play games at Christmas or any other time. My mother loathed things like that, even board games, and as an only child I could usually be found in the corner reading my Christmas books rather than acting out charades. My husband’s family, by contrast, were big games players. Their favourite was cribbage, a game first invented in the early 17th century where the players’ aim is to be the first to score a target number of points. Crib is a game particularly associated with the Navy where it is an "official" game played on ships and submarines, and when my father-in-law retired form the Navy he brought it ashore with him. Spending Christmas with my in-laws introduced me to a whole new way of celebrating family Christmases through playing games together.
Word games will always be my favourite though. Crosswords, code words and quizzes. Recently I came
across something from Victorian times called Ex Libris. Someone begins by choosing a book from the shelf. They are the umpire for the round. The game begins with the umpire reading out the book's first line to give everyone a sense of the prose style. Then everyone writes down their best impression of the book's last line. Everyone pops their suggestions into a hat. At the same time the umpire writes down the actual last line and puts that into the hat too. When all the entries are complete the umpire reads them out. Everyone votes for what they think is the real closing line. You get one point if you vote for the actual last line and one point for everyone who votes for your version. The game keeps going until everyone has had a go at being the umpire and whoever has the most points at the end wins. The most fun comes from last lines that are both credible and very inventive!
Do you have any games that are traditionally played in your family or are your favourites? Whatever your holiday entertainments – goiung out, reading, playing games – I hope you have a wonderful time!