I had one of those “what did you do when you were a child…?”, conversations. I was talking with a newly recruited nurse. She was from Spain and we were talking about Christmas. She was explaining that as children they were not given their Christmas presents until January the 6th, it is said to be the day that the three wise men arrived bearing their gifts to the birth place of Jesus in Bethlehem. This giving of presents is known as ‘Fiesta de Los tres Reyes Mages’.
I was interested in what they did in the time between Christmas Eve and January the sixth. “We played games” she said. A tale unfolded of the various games the family would play together. She explained the importance of family and family values in their tradition and how people would travel for miles to bring gifts and make visits. She talked with starry eyes about the gatherings of the extended family. Then she told me about how much she missed it all.
That got me thinking about my own childhood Christmas’s and the games that we played. I’ll not dive into my father stuff other than to say that in the period between when he was merry to when he lost it he could be amusing and even fun, though I would tend to stand back and avoid him as much as possible.
There were two types of games that I remember. There were those that were played with the adults and those that were exclusively for us children. The thing that struck me looking back was how we did actually play and interact with each other. The television had limited channels and was not, other than the Queens’s speech, the centre of the day and we played games. These days many games are solitary affairs conducted by an individual and a screen.
Anyway, all this got me thinking about the games that we played and how simple they were but also how we rolled around laughing our heads off. All of these games would seem ridiculous to children today but, maybe some game time at Christmas could be good for us all. It is a way of letting off steam and family bonding. Here are some of the mad things that we would play as kids…
The Laughing Game
Aim: Try not to laugh
1. All players sit in a circle
2. Each player takes it in turns to say “Ha”, “Ho” or “Hee”.
3. The first player to start laughing loses and is out of the game.
4. Continue until everyone is out of the game.
5. The person who manages not to laugh for the longest is the winner.
I have been to laughter workshops since and they do work, just as this game does. The reality for us was that we never got to the end because we would all end up laughing until the tears rolled down our faces.
There were two games when we were blindfolded, which was something I found a bit scary…
Blind Man’s Buff
A blindfold player tries to catch others while being pushed about by them.
Squeak Piggy Squeak
Everyone sits as quietly as possible. The blindfolded person sits on someone’s lap and says “squeak piggy squeak” where upon they squeak and the blindfolded person tries to guess who they are.
There were loads of card games from Snap to Rummy and Chase the Ace. I think I will get a pack of cards for Christmas and see if we can get some games going.
and board games like Snakes and Ladders, Ludo, Cluedo, and for the more serious Drafts and Chess. Later there came the oddities like ‘Nine Man’s Morris’ and ‘Chinese Checkers’.
Ed likes this one. In his version an adult brings in a tray with various objects on it. These have to be memorised by the players. The adult leaves the room and removes on object from the tray and brings the tray back into the room. The players have to guess what is missing.
Acting out games
Things like Charades, when people have to guess what you are acting out, were always very funny and sometimes mind boggling. There are variations on this theme now when people do things like you have a label stuck on your forehead that you can’t see while everyone else has to act out whatever is in the label until you guess what it is.
When we got older we played some talking games such as Limericks. The first person would start the Limerick “There once was a lady from …..” the next person would provide the next line, and so on, until we got to the end. These were usually very funny and often very rude.
If the weather was good we would do some running around outside games. These could be anything from Tag to Snowballs and when there was enough snow building a snowman.
Of course if we were lucky enough to be given a present with wheels may be a bike or roller skates we would be out on the streets of the council estate playing, while the envious kids looked on. Sadly I’m mainly in the envious mob watching the posh kids that got everything that we didn’t. There would be years when things like Hula hoops would have a resurgence and it would seem that the whole world had become Hula crazy. One year there were clicker balls, two ball on ropes that you clack above and below your hand. This was ok unless you got your hands caught and clacked your knuckles, very painful.
Anyway, all this got me thinking about how we do not do as much together as we once did and the importance of building family and maintaining family relationships and friendships through simple interaction. Playing games gives us a good chance, and opportunity to just have fun and be silly.
Whether you are celebrating Christmas, the winter solstice, or just creating some light in the dark depth of winter make it fun, play and enjoy it.