Christmas – a Festival of Play


At Earth Wrights we love getting outdoors and playing in the fresh air, but even if the weather forces you indoors there is never an excuse not to play! So this year, after the last of the Christmas pudding has been scraped from the bowl and before you get cosy in front of the fire/radiator/x-box why not have some fun playing a silly game?

The Victorians loved parlour games. In Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, when Scrooge goes to ‘visit’ his nephew Fred with the ghost of Christmas present, Fred’s guests are playing parlour games which we still play today such as Blind Man’s Bluff and Twenty Questions. Here are some old and new games for you to try.

The Minister’s Cat

This game actually features in the 1970 film adaptation of Dickens’ novel and is a fun game for all ages.

Sit in a circle and start a clapping rhythm – two claps on the thighs and two hand claps, so thigh – thigh – clap – clap. To this rhythm each person takes it in turn to say ‘The minister’s Cat is a … Cat, adding an adjective in the space starting with the letter ‘a’. So ‘The minister’s cat is an awful cat’, the next person ‘The minister’s cat is an attractive cat’ and so on until someone misses their turn, as it gets more and more difficult to think of new adjectives. Once a person is out you move on to the next letter of the alphabet. ‘The minister’s cat is a brilliant cat’. When (if!) you make it to x you can use words starting with ‘ex’. Variations include each person doing the next letter of the alphabet or the next person having to find an adjective that starts with the last letter of the previous one. So ‘The minister’s cat is an abominable cat’ and then ‘The minister’s cat is an excellent cat’ That’s advanced level parlour gaming.

Reverend Crawley’s Game

Nobody seems to know who reverend Crawley was and what he was doing inventing games, but this is a good one to work off some Christmas dinner. Works best with 8 – 10 people.

Stand shoulder to shoulder in a circle, put your hands in the middle in a big bunch and grab any hand. Once everyone is attached you will find yourself in a knot and without letting go of the hand you are holding you have to untangle the knot. Fun, silly, energetic. Might make you regret skipping yoga class.

Category Snap

Remember playing snap as a child? Well, this is the turbo charged variant.

Each person picks a category of objects, for example flowers or food or movies. A pack of cards is dealt. (If you have a large group use two decks. Don’t worry if some people have more cards than others) Moving clockwise each person, holding the cards face down, reveals their next card. When two people have the same card they have to shout out an item from the other person’s category and the first person to shout wins. So if my category is ‘forms of transport’ and the other person’s ‘politicians’ I have to say ‘Thatcher’ before they say ‘car’ in order to win the two cards. The person with the most cards at the end is the winner. Once an item has been used it cannot be repeated by another player.

Good for upwards of 5 people. The more people the harder and more frantic it gets. Expect to be clutching your head by the end of it. 

One minute mayhem

My family’s favourite. You will think it’s impossible, and it is, until you play it.

This game requires two teams of between 3 and 6 people. On small scraps of paper each person writes the name of a famous character, dead or alive, fiction or non fiction. Write one name on each piece of paper aiming to write about 6-10 each (depending on how long you want to play) All names go into a hat.

The game is played in several rounds. At each round one of the team gets up, pulls a name from the hat and has one minute to try and make the rest of their team guess who it is. Once the name is guessed they can pick another name, trying to get as many guesses in one minute. When their minute is over their score is noted and the hat goes to the other team. Each person gets a go until all the names have been guessed. That is the end of the round. After each round the names all go back in the hat.

The first round you can use words to describe the person without saying their name.

The second round you can only use mime, no words.

The final round you can only use your facial expression to communicate the name on the paper. It helps if members of the other team cover your body with a sheet so only your face is showing.

Absurd, but hilarious. And you’ll be hooked before you know it.

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