The Holidays are a time when friends and family are in close quarters. Much of that time is joyous, full of fun and spent in front of the TV watching any number of Christmas specials. We are never far removed from Jimmy Stewart, Chevy Chase, George C. Scott, Billy Bob Thorton or Little Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun.
However, film and TV are relatively new additions to the Holiday season. A century ago, no one owned a TV and movies were silent. How did people pass the time? The answer, of course, is games. Board games, card games, word games and many others were played for fun.
The Victorian era (1837-1901) which gave us Christmas cards, A Christmas Carol and Christmas Crackers also had games like Up Jenkins, Similes and Throwing the Smile. Up Jenkins was played with 8 or more players divided into two teams. Teams would sit across from each other and one team was given a coin. The team with the coin would pass or pretend to pass it among themselves until the opposing team shouted Up Jenkins! At which point the team with the coin would raise their hands above the table with fists closed. The opposing team would then say Down Jenkins! The team with the coin would then place their hands on the table palms down. The other team would then get one chance to guess which player on the opposing team had the coin.
Similes could be played with as few as two people but more is better. Each player would take a turn telling the other player or players a simile. Here are some examples of similes:
tight as a drum
green as the grass
brave as a lion
strong as an ox.
Players would keep telling similes until someone couldn’t think of one and then that person would be out. Eventually you would be left with a winner.
Those are games from Christmas past. If you’re looking to play games in Christmas present here are some books that can help:
This how-to book offers a large variety of card games along with rules and instructions about how to play. You’ll see Poker and Cribbage as well a few games not often played. In addition to learning how to play, you’ll also get a short history on the evolution of the game.
If you’ve ever wondered “how do I play Egyptian Ratscrew?” this book is for you. Providing rules and strategies for card and board games, you’ll find fun from Scrabble to Eleusis. The book also helpfully separates games geared for adults versus those more suited for children.
Check out this book to create an “unplugged” family fun night that appeals to children too! With twists on timeless classics to brand new games, this book provides ideas for indoor and outdoor fun. Plus, it suggests snacks and meals that complement each family night theme.
My list of books would not be complete without a history of board games. David Parlett dives into the rich and interesting history of board games from around the world and from different time periods. His book offers some tips on strategies but focuses primarily on the development and cultural aspects of the games.
These books offer some great ways to stay entertained over the holidays. And there is one more twist you can throw into your gaming that can be a lot of fun. Today most games end with a player or players being “out” or being “it”. However, in ages past many games didn’t end this way. Players would perform a forfeit. Here are some examples:
- A player has to stand on a chair and assume the form or shape of an object or animal the group chooses.
- Make at least three other people smile.
- Tell a joke.
- Mime something and make the other players guess what it is you are doing.
Try these or create your own forfeits to add a different twist to your games!
While the holiday season is a great time to break out the games, it isn’t the only time you can enjoy them. Come to the library and enjoy “Tabletop Games Day”. Different branches host this games day event at different times of the year. Come and enjoy an oversized game of Chess, Checkers, or Snakes and Ladders. You can also have fun with some regular-sized games like Clue, Scrabble or Cribbage. Check the most current “At the Library” for times and locations.