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How Do You Play Snap-Dragon?

Most Christmas traditions we practice today can be traced all the way back to the Victorian era. From Christmas trees to stockings, even carols were made popular during the 1840s. But did you know about the rather risky Christmas game that was played in the past?

A traditional Victorian Christmas game, Snap-Dragon was played with a shallow bowl filled with raisins and brandy. The brandy would be lit on fire, and players would take the raisins without burning their hands.

The Game of Snap-Dragon

Snap-Dragon traces its origins as far back as the Shakespearean era. William Shakespeare referenced this Christmas tradition in his Love’s Labour’s Lost, where the rustic character Costard mentions Thou are easier swallowed than a flapdragon. The game was also referenced in Falstaff’s Henry IV. (Source: Romancing the Past)

In the 1811 publication of Francis Grose Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, the game of Snap-Dragon, also known as Flap-Dragon or Flapdragon, was a parlor game popular from the 16th to the 19th century. In the dictionary, its definition is as follows: Christmas gamble: raisins and almonds being put into a bowl of brandy, and the candles extinguished, the spirit is set on fire, and the company scramble for the raisins. (Source: Jane Austen)

The game is pretty simple. A wide and flat plate is filled with raisins and almonds. These would then be soaked in brandy enough to make the fruit and nut float. The plate would then be put in a dark room. The game begins once the brandy is set on fire and emits a blue flame. The goal is to eat as much of the raisins and almonds without getting burnt.

Raisins or almonds can be substituted with grapes or plums. Players would be positioned around the flaming plate, and the lights would be put out to give an eerie feel of the whole game. The flaming fruit or nut would then be extinguished by eating it straight from the plate while still burning.

The game was traditionally played during Christmas eve, and it was reported that the tradition was followed in both England and the United States. Throughout the years, its popularity declined as many started to feel the danger it imposed on players and spectators alike. (Source: Atlas Obscura)

Other Bizarre Christmas Traditions

Besides the game of Snap-Dragon, other Christmas traditions would definitely be downright weird in today’s time. The Victorian era Christmas season was not complete without Blind Man’s Bluff game. The game is pretty much similar to what we know today, where a blindfolded player attempts to tag others.

The difference is how it was played in the past. Players are usually drunk, and safety is not considered. It was perfectly fine for players to sustain injuries like broken arms and legs due to the game.

Another game played during the Victorian era was Hoop and Hide. The game mechanics were similar to Hide and Seek, but the main difference is that if anyone is caught hiding near or on the bed, the dispute will be ended in kissing. (Source: Atlas Obscura)

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