Regency Christmas Traditions: Parlor Games pt 2

Regency Christmas Traditons

Christmas and Twelfth Night parties were times of particular fun and frivolity. Parlor games, like snapdragon and bullet pudding made up a large part of the fun.



They were played by all classes of society and often involved overstepping the strict bound of propriety. These games often provided the opportunity for flirtation and communication between the sexes that otherwise would have been forbidden, thus their popularity.

Losers often paid a forfeit, which could be an elaborate penalty or dare, but more often were a thinly disguised machination for getting a kiss which might indeed leave the loser feeling like a winner after all. Often, forfeits were accumulated all evening, until the hostess would ‘cry the forfeits’ and they would all be redeemed.

 Here are a few more games that might have been played during holiday parties of the Regency.


The Courtiers

The king or queen occupied a chair in the center of the room. The courtiers would then copy the monarch’s movements with losing their decorum. Any number of simple or vulgar actions might be attempted to cause laughter among the courtiers, thus resulting in a forfeit.


Post and pair

Was a quick card game. Each player is dealt three cards. The winning hand was a pair of kings, queens or jacks, or otherwise highest ranking pair.


 Tableaux Vivants

Players took on the positions of a famous painting, nursery rhyme, or play and remained still and on display for those not participating in the scene.



 Raisins were piled in a bowl, topped with brandy and lit on fire. Players would try to snatch raisins out of the blue brandy-flames and eat them without getting burned—or lighting anything else aflame. The guest with the most raisins is destined to find true love in the upcoming year.

While brandy burns with a relatively cool flame, I’m not sure I would suggest this for the next family Christmas party. Though not nearly so dramatic charades is probably much safer!


 Bullet puddingbulletpudding

Flour was piled into a high mound and a bullet placed on the top. Players cut slices out of the flour pile with a knife without dislodging the bullet. If the bullet fell, the player had to retrieve the bullet from the flour with their teeth.


Musical Magic

One, of the party is made to quit the room until the rest determined what task he will be required to perform. The task can be as simple as snuffing a candle, for a novice player, or as complex as kneeling before another player, removing their ring and placing it on the finger of the other player, for an experienced player. The player is guided in divining his task by the playing of music from soft or loud. When the player is close to the object or action he must do next, the music becomes louder until it stops when he has gotten it right. The further away the player the softer the music. If the player in despair gives up, a forfeit must be paid and another player takes his place.


The Ribbon

Each person is provided with a piece of ribbon. One player stands in the center of the room and holds one end of each ribbon. The others circle around that player and each takes a lose end of ribbon. The player in the center then calls ‘pull’ or ‘let go.’ If he says let go, all the players must pull on their ribbons. If he says pull they must let go their ends. The center player continues to quickly call instructions until one player makes a mistake. Players who make errors must pay forfeits.


Find more parlor games here, here, here and here.

Merry Maker book cover



Revel, Rachel. ‘Winter Evening Pastimes or The Merry Maker’s Companion’. (1825)



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    • Beverlee on December 15, 2015 at 7:34 am
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    Again, some fun games for a party. The Tableaux Vivants sounds a bit like what my daughter does in her drama class. I also recall reading about this during Medieval festivals, not to recreate paintings, but scenes from Scripture. Interesting, as always.

    • Linda A. on December 15, 2015 at 8:29 am
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    Interesting games, although I would not have wanted to play them. I can’t see Darcy doing them either.

    • Ginna on December 15, 2015 at 9:53 am
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    I think Snapdragon sounds like fun. I’m sure that if I had ever learned how to play it, I would have been quite the proficient!

    • Maureen C on December 15, 2015 at 4:29 pm
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    I wonder how many house fires started due to people playing snapdragon….and how they even came up with the idea! I agree with Linda. I don’t see Darcy being too thrilled to take part in these! Very interesting to read about them though.

    • Lisa Heiserman on December 15, 2015 at 8:51 pm
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    Oh more games. Sounds like fun.

    • Agnes on December 16, 2015 at 4:54 am
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    How funny it must have been to play these games, especially as it was so different from otherwise restricted interactions. Quite a few sound like activities my children’s Scout groups might play (of course, some education might be necessary for Tableaux vivants, for example – although common ground in scenes from favourite movies might be explored in a modern setting). I’d love to experience the thrill of snapdragon, just once…

    • Susan S on December 19, 2015 at 1:17 am
    • Reply

    I’m still really intrigued by the idea of
    getting my history loving friends together
    and trying these games…it might help
    to serve some wine or sherry,

    • Sheila L. M. on December 27, 2015 at 11:11 am
    • Reply

    Snapdragon sounds downright dangerous and I would not want to attempt it. Wonder how someone came up with this game and how many fires were experienced as cuffs, lace, etc. caught on fire? Or if one dropped a flaming raisin?

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