Friday, December 12, 2008

Game for Some Christmas Fun?

The young ladies and gentlemen of the nineteenth century were! Christmas Eve in particular seems to have been a big time for games. American author Washington Irving, who traveled to England early in the century, mentions games with intriguing names like hoodman blind, shoe the wild mare, hot cockles, steal the white loaf, bob apple, and snapdragon.

I originally researched snapdragon for my book, The Twelve Days of Christmas, which is now out as an electronic reprint titled My True Love Gave to Me (Regency Reads). Snapdragon today would just not be allowed! The objective was to seize raisins from flaming brandy. I can’t imagine too many parents letting teenagers play with fire, or alcohol!

To play the game, you put raisins into a large, shallow bowl, poured brandy over them, and ignited them. Then you extinguished all the lights except the fire in the fireplace and the blaze from the bowl and each person took a turn at reaching through the flames to grab as many raisins as possible. You took your turn after each verse of the accompanying song:

“Here he comes with flaming bowl,
Don’t be mean to take his toll.
Snip! Snap! Dragon!
Take care you don’t take too much
Be not greedy in your clutch.
Snip! Snap! Dragon!
With his blue and lapping tongue
Many of you will be stung.
Snip! Snap! Dragon!
For he snaps at all that comes
Snatching at his feast of plums.
Snip! Snap! Dragon!
But Old Christmas makes him come
Though he looks so fee! Fa! Fum!
Snip! Snap! Dragon!
Don’t ‘ee fear him, be but bold.
Out he goes, his flames are cold.
Snip! Snap! Dragon!

Games and merriment like this often lasted until midnight, when bells would call the faithful to Christmas services. Be sure to come back next week, when we’re going to play some games to celebrate the birthday of a very special lady and let you win something much nicer than flaming raisins.


Gillian Layne said...

So teenagers have always been daredevils, yes? This made me smile. And the names of those games are wild!

Addie said...

Snap Dragon seems like a fun game, if you don't mind burning yourself!

Marissa Doyle said...

And of course, the more raisins you snatched from the fire and ate, the less skillful you got... :)

Liviania said...

I'm not sure I'd be very good at that game. My reflexes are on par with those of a drunken sloth.

I nominated you for an "I <3 your blog" award.

Regina Scott said...


Bless you! We sent the love back by commenting.

And I think I'd suck at that game too. I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to plunge my hands through the flames!

I'm pretty sure this is one instance when they would *not* have worn gloves. ;-)