Christmas Crackers

and of course  CRACKERS!

The foThe Victorians loved puzzles, parlour games, competitions indeed all kinds of brainteaser and tests of artistry or skill, and their magazines increasingly encouraged readers to engage in these around Christmas and the New Year. Here are some for you to try:

Christmas Party Games

CHARADES- Detail adapted from cartoon by M Stretch. Tom Hood's Comic Annual 1871.
"Our Christmas Party and the Reasons why Some People Like It" showing The Young Lady. because 'you always have such fun with the Acted Charades'. Charades were perhaps the most popular of the parlour games. The licence to wear make-up - as well as taking on the role of a male cavalier - featured here, reflects the furious debate over the the "Girl of the Period" . See Beauty Secrets- Skin Deep


Many of the Victorian parlour games required forfeits from the losing team, pair or individual. Whatever was forfeit could be redeemed by some act intended to amuse the remainder of the party. The Ladies Treasury 1860 offered a selection described as 'easy and laughable', from which these are taken.

For a Lady:
1 To decide on the three gentlemen in the room who are in love and will not own it.
2 To make a bouquet  of six gentlemen, giving to each the name of some flower, and the reason for giving it.
3 To be seated on a chair raised on a table, and to avoid smiling while every person in the room puts some laughable question.

For a Gentleman:
1 To place four young ladies and four bachelors in pairs, just as he thinks them best suited to each other.
2 To make a speech or say a verse of poetry with his hands behind him, while the arms and hands of another gentleman (whose head is concealed) perfprm all the actions that would naturally have been performed by the speaker.
3 To beg from different ladies to tell him of his faults.

And one for either sex:
Put two chairs back to back. Take off your shoes and jump over them. (The fun of this forfeit consists in the person thinking he is to jump over the chairs instead of the shoes.)

Question and Answer Puzzles

And oTfThe Question and Answer "JOKES" below are taken from an item captioned Christmas Puzzles in an 1830s anthology of newspaper and magazine snippets. They may remind readers of the kind of jokes involving puns we still find in Christmas Crackers today. Some readers may even remember one of them from their schooldays. WARNING: One answer requires some general knowledge appropriate to Christmas as a Christian festival, which may not be as familiar to modern readers as it was in the nineteenth century.

Answer (ANSWERS are on this Site on the Page which includes the answer to the following Question:  People in What shouldn't throw Stones?)

1)Why is a Tragedy a more natural performance in a theatre than a Comedy?

2)When is a door not a door?

3)When is it more than a door?

4)If a pair of spectacles could speak what author would they name?

Christmas Crackers

Rose motif from a Rimmell's Christmas advertisement

Crackers were well established as part of Christmas entertaining by the second half of the century. This perfumer's 1871 advertisement for Christmas novelties mentions "Oracular crackers, a new mode of telling fortunes" for 3s.6d. a dozen and "Floral crackers, containing beautiful scented flowers" at 5s.6d. Amongst other Christmas specialities were scented Christmas cards.

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©  Barbara Onslow 2007   Page last updated December 30th. 2015