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Fun and Games

December 23, 2015

Everyone is getting into the holiday spirit by now, and starting to make time for festivals, soirees, and visits amongst

These are often full of food and revelry, and sometimes friendly competitions. Some families get together and play cards. Euchre and Spades tend to be quite popular with Midwestern families now, while some families prefer “Minute to Win It” style games and yet others get pulled into never-ending games of Monopoly.

card game

While researching holiday traditions at the turn of the century from magazine called The Delineator, Erin at our 1900 Farm came across a delightful article on games to play in the holiday season. The author notes that these games are particularly useful as they take little set up and are nice to have on hand in case visitors happen to arrive.

Hostesses in 1901 were just as concerned as ever that everyone have a good time, and to that end would provide merry entertainment, sometimes in the form of games, for the visitors. This was helpful, as winter was a social time when there was not as many chores to do on the farm and people could spend time in amusement. Without an endless supply of holiday movies to put them in the spirit of the season, people would look to their host for direction. Charades, word games, and trivia were popular forms of leisure, with prizes being handed out to the winners or forfeits being paid by the losers.

The Delineator

Mary Howard cleverly names her gathering, “A No-L Party for Noel Tide.” Take a look at some of her game ideas, which have been edited for ease of reading below. Try them out with your friends and family this holiday season.


If friends drop in unexpectedly during the Christmas season surprising the hostess without a plan for their entertainment, a No-L Party may be devised for them on the spur of the moment and will keep the room in a gale of merriment for an hour and a half at least. The fun of the evening consists in a series of games in which L is a tabooed letter. No L is recognized in the proceedings and from the first game to the last the person giving a word containing L forfeits a point. Guests are first seated in a row or circle and a book provided. The character of the book is of no importance. Some person is asked to read aloud during the space of two minutes by the hostess’s watch. If in reading he comes upon on any word containing an L this word must be omitted and another conveying the same sense substituted. If the player fails to notice that a word included contains an L and reads it aloud, or if he cannot supply another word to convey the meaning, he is banished from the circle. Each player reads for two minutes, the person at his left hand then receiving the book in turn. The player who unluckily slips into an L word is not tripped by the hostess but by his fellow players. This makes it necessary for each contestant to be alert. The reading is continued until all persons but one have dropped out of the circle. This last survivor receives the prize, a book about Christmas.

The second game is an exciting variation of the foregoing. A box of anagram chips is needed in playing it but if these are not at hand slips of paper may be substituted each having a letter of the alphabet written upon it. All letters are represented in this way except L. The hostess then announces a subject, which we will say is Famous Men. The player first in line then picks up at random one of the letter slips which have been jumbled together and placed face downward. On seeing the letter he has received the player must immediately name a great man beginning with that letter but containing no letter L. If the letter drawn is N, and the subject is Great Men, Noah will be correct, but Napoleon would banish one from the circle. The fun in this feature arises in the perversity with which the mind immediately reverts to words containing the letter L. An appropriate trophy for the clever person who cannot be overcome in this merry bout would be a well written book on any of the subjects proposed by the hostess. . .

While a No-L party is especially good on account of requiring no preparation for an impromptu affair, it serves exceedingly well for any Christmas entertainment – MARY DAWSON.”  The Delineator, Vol LVIII, 1901

parlor guests

The staff and blog writers here at Living History Farms wish all our friends and followers a very happy holiday season!

Read more posts on the LHF Blog


19th Century Leisure   Holidays


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