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Playing Games During the Holiday

Blindman's Buff - Blindman's Bluff

Games like Nine Men’s Morris (a cross between checkers and tic-tac-toe) and stoolball (similar to baseball and cricket) were homemade games available to the working and servant classes, however, working men and women did not normally have much leisure time for game-playing. When they did have the time, many games were not legal for them to play. Chess, backgammon, gambling and bowls were reserved for the wealthy, and only the king could play tennis.

On Christmas day, gaming rules were relaxed and adults and children at all levels of society were allowed to “let loose” and play games and engage in revelry – often with the landowning families they worked for. An exception was in 1541, when all sports on Christmas day were banned by Henry VIII.

Popular games and sport during Christmas included: hunting deer and wild boar (for the wealthy), football (a quite brutal sport in the 17th century with few rules), card playing, dancing and singing, apple bobbing (from a string on a stick holding a lighted candle on top!), and dicing.

A simple game that we still play today is Blindman’s Bluff, akin to our modern game of Tag. It was called Blindman’s Buff in the 17th century. Buff referring to a soft shove. To play, one player is blindfolded and spun around to disorient him. The other players call out to the “blind man” and tease him. They try not to be touch by him. If touched, a player then switches places with the blindman.

Play blindman’s bluff on Christmas day with your family, or try a game you have never played before.

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