Parlor games of Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”

One of our newer Christmastime traditions is to read Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” with our daughter. During the visit of the ghost of Christmas present, Scrooge gets caught up in watching his nephew entertain friends with a variety of parlor games, most of which seem to have fallen by the wayside in our time — by my count, they are:

  • Forfeits
  • Letters of the Alphabet
  • Blindman’s Bluff
  • How, When and Where
  • Yes and No

Being unfamiliar with them, I decided to look them up:


The players each put a piece of clothing, jewelry or some personal belonging into a pile on the floor. These are the “forfeits.” One person is chosen to be the judge, and another holds up the forfeits over the judge’s head.

The judge sits in front of the pile and cannot see what is being held overhead. As the sock or necklace or belt is held over the judge’s head, the other player says:
“Heavy, heavy hangs over thy head.
What shall the owner do to redeem the forfeit?”

Then the judge (without looking up) commands the owner to do some act or stunt in order to get back the property.


Letters of the Alphabet

Have everyone write a general topic of conversation down on a slip of paper, along with a letter of the alphabet. Pick two or three people at a time to play the game. Have them pick a topic out of a hat or basket. They then must start a conversation with one another regarding the topic. The catch is that they have to begin each sentence with a letter of the alphabet, beginning with the letter written in the slip of paper. They must follow the conversation through the alphabet, ending back with letter in which they started.

Blindman’s Bluff

Blind man’s bluff is played in a spacious area, such as outdoors or in a large room, in which one player, designated as “It”, is blindfolded and gropes around attempting to touch the other players without being able to see them, while the other players scatter and try to avoid the person who is “it”, hiding in plain sight and sometimes teasing them to make them change direction.

Blind man’s bluff is ideally played in an area free of dangerous obstructions so that the “It” player will not suffer injury from tripping over or hitting something.


How, When and Where

One of the company goes out of the room, while the others choose a word to be guessed, one with two or three different meanings being the best. We will suppose that the word “Spring” has been thought of. When theperson who is outside the room is recalled, he (or she) asks each one in succession: “How do you like it?” The answers may be “Dry” (meaningthe season), “Cold and clear” (a spring of water), “Strong” (awatch-spring), and “High” (a jump). The next question is: “When do youlike it?” The answers may be: “When I am in the country,” “When I amthirsty,” “When my watch is broken.”The next question is: “Where do you like it?” and the answers may be:”Anywhere and everywhere,” “In hot weather,” “In the clock.” The gameis to try and guess the word after any of the answers, and if right,the player last questioned takes the place of the one who is guessing;if wrong, the questioner must try again.


Yes and No

One person picks something and commits it to memory (Mount Rushmore, the ocean, an item in the room). They do not tell what this item is but they say, for example, “I’m thinking of something large.” The guests are then allowed to ask yes or no questions. “Is it a building?” “No” “Is it an animal” “No.” “Is it a monument?” “Yes.” “Is it in Europe?” “No” and so on until one person guesses the item correctly. If the person guesses incorrectly the game still ends and the wrong person must chose a new somtething. Players should never guess until they are completely sure they know the answer.


4 thoughts on “Parlor games of Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”

  1. Ed Greene

    I believe Scrooge’s nephew’s guests played Blindman’s Bluff in the 1951 (Alastair Sim) movie of the Christmas Carol.
    Can anyone confirm?

  2. Scott Lloyd

    The name of the game is correctly written as “Blind Man’s Buff,” not “Blind Man’s Bluff”. That is a common error.

    The idea is that other players in the room “buffet” the blindfolded person by tapping, jostling or otherwise harassing him.

  3. Pingback: 12 Ideas for Having A Broadway Vacation! - Scented Indulgence

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