Victorian Parlour Games Played at Christmas

The Victorian era was a time of sophistication, elegance, and, most notably for our purposes today, some fantastic parlour games.

With Christmas being a significant occasion for families to come together, it was also an opportunity for everyone to engage in festive merrymaking and play. The rise of the parlour game during this period was particularly pronounced during the festive season of Christmas. As the evenings grew longer and colder, families would gather in their parlours, lit by the soft glow of the fireplace, and partake in an array of delightful games.

Why were parlour games popular in Victorian times?

These weren’t mere pastimes; they were essential social events, bringing together people of all ages. It provided an opportunity for the young to learn social cues, for potential couples to subtly court, and for the older generation to engage with the younger in a relaxed setting.

In essence, Victorian parlour games were the social media of their time, connecting everyone in shared moments of joy, challenge, and, very often, hilarity. They were essentially Victorian dinner party games.

What is a parlour game?

A parlour game is a group game played indoors in the parlour (or living room) of a home.

Typically, parlour games require little or no specialised equipment and can often be played simply with items found around the house. These games are primarily verbal or require simple actions, making them suitable for both adults and children.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, before the advent of electronic entertainment, parlour games were a popular form of entertainment, especially during social gatherings and family events. They emphasised interaction, creativity, and sometimes wit or physical dexterity. 

Victorian Christmas Games

Here are some of the most popular Victorian parlour games that made Christmas celebrations even more delightful. We have included some appropriate Victorian parlour games for kids. However there are few that might just be adults only! We hope you enjoy the Victorian parlour games examples below. And remember to play safe!

5 Fun Victorian Parlour Games Played at Christmas

1. Blind Man’s Buff

This game is a classic that has its roots going back much farther than the Victorian era, but it remained incredibly popular during Victorian times. Here’s how to play:

1. One person is chosen to be the ‘blind man’ (or woman), and they are blindfolded.
2. The other players form a circle around the blind man, who is then turned around several times to disorient them.
3. Once the blind man is released, they must try to tag another player while the rest of the players try to avoid being caught.
4. When someone is tagged, they become the new blind man, and the game continues.

2. Charades

The game of Charades was a firm favourite in the Victorian era and is still popular today. It requires creativity, mime, and often results in a lot of laughter!

1. Players are split into two teams.
2. One member of a team acts out a word or phrase without speaking, using only gestures and mime.
3. The other team must guess the word or phrase within a set time.
4. Teams take turns acting and guessing. The team with the most correct guesses wins!

3. Pass the Slipper

This is a fun and lively game that was enjoyed by many during Victorian Christmas gatherings.

1. Players sit in a circle with one person in the middle.
2. A slipper (or any small object) is given to one person in the circle.
3. The aim is for the players to pass the slipper around the circle, hidden behind their backs, while the person in the middle tries to guess where the slipper is.
4. If the person in the middle guesses correctly, the player holding the slipper goes to the centre.

Black and sepia illustration of children around a table with a bowl in the middle.
Victorian Parlour Games – Snap Dragon

4. Snap Dragon

A game with a fiery twist! It was especially popular during winter as it brought warmth and thrill to the room.

1. Raisins are placed in a bowl and then covered with brandy.
2. The brandy is lit, so the raisins are floating in a blue flame.
3. Players must bravely snatch the raisins out and eat them while they’re still alight!
4. Caution: This game is not for the faint-hearted and should be played with extreme care! We are not sure that children should be playing with fire these days!

5. The Minister’s Cat

This is a delightful word game that’s great for enhancing vocabulary and testing memory.

1. Players sit in a circle.
2. The first player starts by describing the minister’s cat with an adjective beginning with the letter A (e.g., “The minister’s cat is an amazing cat.”)
3. The next player repeats the sentence using another adjective beginning with A.
4. This continues until an adjective is repeated or someone can’t think of a new one.
5. Then, the game moves on to the letter B and continues through the alphabet.

Other Victorian parlour games included:

6. Lookabout: A game where an object is hidden in plain sight and players have to find it.

7. Forfeits: A game where players must do tasks or “pay a forfeit” if they fail a challenge or break a rule.

8. Fanning the Candle: Players try to fan out a candle using a card or a fan from a certain distance.

9. Hot Cockles: One blindfolded player tries to guess who hit their hand from a group of smirking suspects.

10. Squeak Piggy Squeak: Blindfolded players sit on the laps of others and guess who they’re sitting on based on the “squeak” sound the seated player makes.

11. Hunt the Thimble (or Ring): Players try to find a hidden thimble while the person who hid it gives clues based on proximity.

12. Shadow Buff: A blindfolded player identifies other players based on their shadows cast on a wall.

13. The Laughing Game: Players sit in a circle and try to make each other laugh; the last person remaining serious wins.

14. Are You There, Moriarty?: Two blindfolded players stand opposite each other with a newspaper in hand, trying to hit the other when their name is called.

15. Cup and Saucer: A race where players must carry a saucer and cup on a tray without dropping them.

16. Oranges and Lemons: Players form arches with their arms as others pass under and get caught during the rhyme’s climax.

17. The Feather Game: Players blow a feather into the air, trying to keep it aloft using only their breath.

18. How, When, and Where: A guessing game where players inquire about an object or concept using only the words “how,” “when,” and “where.”

19. Consequences: A paper-and-pencil game where players write a story in parts, without seeing the previous lines, leading to amusing outcomes.

20. The Matchbox Game: Players try to balance a matchbox on their nose and catch it upon release.

21. Drop the Handkerchief: Players sit in a circle as one player walks around, dropping a handkerchief behind someone; that person must then chase and tag them.

Each of these games offers a delightful glimpse into the entertainment of the Victorian era, reflecting the creativity and social nature of gatherings during that period.

List of 21 Victorian parlour games to play at Christmas
21 Victorian Parlour Games To Play At Christmas

Christmas in the Victorian era was a time of togetherness, joy, and good old-fashioned fun. We love these old fashioned parlour games!

These parlour games brought families closer, made memories, and have stood the test of time. Whether you’re planning to host a vintage-themed Christmas party or just want to try something different this festive season, give these Victorian games a go. They might just become your new Christmas traditions!

As the embers of the fireplace dimmed and the night wore on, these Victorian parlour games often culminated in stories, songs, and heartfelt conversations. They weren’t just games; they were the ties that bound families and friends closer together. In our fast-paced digital age, there’s something incredibly enticing about revisiting these simpler pastimes of Victorian games.

Introducing them into your festive traditions can not only offer a nostalgic nod to the past but also allow for genuine connection, laughter, and shared memories. So, as you deck your halls this Christmas, consider making space in your living room for a game or two from a bygone era. The joy and camaraderie they bring might just surprise you!

 More Christmas Traditions:

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