September 15, 2010

Victorian Parlor Games


Some things never change—like the desire to relax and unwind at the end of a long day. I tend to enjoy sitting in my recliner with my feet up, usually watching television, although I always have a book or my latest cross-stitch project within reach, too. Take away the television, the electric lights, the recliner, and—oh, yes—the comfy, loose-fitting clothing, and my leisure activities aren't all that different from my Victorian counterparts. A quiet evening in the 1800's would often include reading by lamplight or working on a piece of needlework. Yet if one had guests, a more entertaining diversion might be in order.


Parlor games were incredibly popular during the Victorian era. They also play a key role in my upcoming release, Head in the Clouds. My heroine, Adelaide and her young charge, Isabella, plan a special party for the Westcott household to celebrate the end of shearing season. After an indoor picnic with all the trimmings, they push back the remainder of the furniture and make merry with several games Since Isabella is mute, they select games easily adapted to her capabilities, focusing on Charades and Blindman's Bluff. But there are many wonderful games to choose from that you might consider employing the next time you have a gathering over for a dinner party. Here are just a few:

  •  Shadows – A white tablecloth is suspended and the chosen party guest must sit on a stool facing the cloth. One by one, the remaining guests pass by on the other side, casting their shadow upon the cloth. They may disguise themselves however they wish—stooping, contorting their limbs at strange angles, pulling up their coat collar, etc. If their identity is correctly guessed they must either pay a forfeit or replace the guesser.
  • Lookabout – The host selects a small knick-knack and gives everyone a chance to study it. Then all the guests leave the room while the host hides it. When the guests are called back into the room, they mill about in a visual hunt for the object, and when they spy it, they sit down. The last person standing must pay a forfeit.
  • The Dumb Orator – One person selects a work to recite and does so while showing no emotion upon his face and making no gesture. Another person stands to the side making no sound but acting out the emotions and actions of the piece with great exaggeration. The purpose is to create as much laughter from the audience as possible.

  • Blindman's Bluff – One person is blindfolded while the rest of the guests scatter about the room. The one blindfolded must then attempt to catch hold of someone and guess their identity. If the guess is incorrect, the captured person is freed. If correct, the blindfold passes to that player and the game begins again. One variation on this game was called The Queen of Sheba. In this version, the prettiest girl in the company sits on a chair while the blindfolded player makes his way to her in order to steal a kiss. As he nears, the girl is secretly replaced by an elderly matron.

So, what are some of your favorite games to play with friends? My husband's brother got us hooked on a game called The Settlers of Catan. It is strategic, but not so much so that you can't carry on lively discussions while playing. My kids love playing Life or Star Wars Monopoly when we can pry them off of the computer for a family game night.

Leave a comment about your favorite parlor or board game and be entered in a drawing to win a copy of my current release, A Tailor-Made Bride.

Karen Witemeyer writes historical romance for Bethany House and admits to being a tad too competitive when it comes to playing board games with her family.

Be watching for her second novel, Head in the Clouds, which will start hitting bookstore shelves later this month.

And if you like historical fiction giveaways, be sure to visit her website and sign up for her monthly contest. http://www.karenwitemeyer.com

12 comments:

HandyFamily said...

This sounds like it would be a book right up my alley. Reading about the parlor games was enjoyable. I think 'Shadows' would be a fun game to play. I tend to be a bit (ahem) competitive when i play games as well. I guess that is what happens when you grow up in the middle of two brothers :) My favorite board game to play is Scrabble.

Have a great day!
Wendi

wowendi{at}gmail{dot}com

Sandy Ardoin said...

We used to have a "family game" at Christmas. Each year we would get some new board game and play it during the holidays.

When my daughter was little, Hungry, Hungry Hippos was popular around our house.

Karen Witemeyer said...

Hi, Wendi. I love Scrabble. Anything with words is great for me. Guess it's the whole author thing, huh? :-)

We have Up Words, too. It's like Scrabble only you can put tiles on top of already played ones to change the words.

I just saw that Head in the Clouds is now in stock on Amazon, so hopefully it will start showing up in the stores soon, too.

Thanks for leaving a comment today. I've entered you in the drawing.

Karen Witemeyer said...

Hi, Sandy. We have a game tradition, too. My husband always buys me some kind of board game as one of my Christmas gifts. Last year I hinted that I wanted Blokus (it's kind of like the old tetris comupter game). The only problem is, he beats me every time we play. Grrr... At least I have children I can occasionally beat. LOL

jtwebster books said...

Hi Karen,
My husband always beats me at games, except for Absolute Balderdash. Our family love this board game.
Your latest book sounds fascinating, I'll look out for it.

Karen Witemeyer said...

I've played Balderdash a time or two. A great came for creativity! And craziness. Thanks for sharing!

Katey said...

Those sound like some fun parlor games. :)

katey(dot)1m(at)hotmail(dot)com

barbjan10 said...

Hello Karen, "A Tailor-Made Bride" will be an enjoyable book to read. Games are so much fun. I personally like Scrabble or any word game, Kings in the Corner, Monopoly, Sorry, and all the games for the little ones I'm now playing with the great-grandkids...like Hi Ho Cheerio. Can't believe that's still around.
I love to put together jigsaw puzzles and crosswords. I'm not always a winner, but I'm a good sport about losing. Thanks for offering this giveaway and the chance to win. I hope I do.

Sharing God's Love,
Barb Shelton
barbjan10 at tx dot rr dot com

Karen Witemeyer said...

Hi, Katey. Don't you think it would make a fun party night to have friends over and play some of these old-fashioned games? It'd be a good reminder that we don't need electronics to be entertained.

Thanks for posting.

Karen Witemeyer said...

Hi, Barb. We have a tradition between Thanksgiving and Christmas - we get out a jigsaw puzzle and set it up in the corner of the living room. Then throughout the holidays we work on it little by little. It's fun to see the picture come together and to watch the kids get excited when they find pieces that fit in the "adult" puzzle.

Thanks for posting. I've entered you in the drawing!

Karen Witemeyer said...

Congratulations to Wendi. She will be receiving the giveaway copy of A Tailor-Made Bride.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and left a comment.

Blessings!

HandyFamily said...

Thank you so much! I can't wait to read the book! I think I might add Up Words to my Christmas list! Have a great week!

Wendi