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Christmas Party Games

A Christmas Eve Love Game

What is it?

A traditional love divination game for women of all ages, whether married or not that goes back to pre Christian times. It was very popular in Victorian times for young unmarried friends. Amazingly even sceptics report it really works.

Number of players: Any, but traditionally three, seven or nine

Event: Though often played in the run up to midnight on Christmas Eve, around 11pm, it can be played at any pre Christmas late night event when men and fixing fairy lights or have gone to the pub leaving the women to sort the food and presents; also a good Girls’ Night in game at any time of the year. It is a wonderful antidote to the frantic hype of Christmas and amazingly the world doesn’t stop if you have a night of relaxation –what Christmas should be about.

What you will need:

An open household fire or bucket of sand with a large red candle
Holly and ivy
Cooking oil
Juniper essential oil
Hazel nuts
A prayer book with the traditional wedding service in
About the game

This old game either reveals to unattached women their future husband or for those attached confirms the rightness of their choice

The women who played the game would gather the holly and ivy, plus fresh juniper if they could find it, before darkness fell. They would then return to the fireside to decorate the room with holly and ivy boughs, symbols of the King and Queen of the Christmas season

Afterwards they would create the love chain that was to be burned (see below) put on white or party dresses and had supper together apart from any men folk before rejoining the party until 11pm
The game would commence at the stroke of 11 and only the players would be admitted to the room in which the divination took place.


This depends on how traditional you wish to be

1 Holly and ivy enough to decorate the room and to weave the love chain. This is entwined holly and ivy strands secured with twine along which hazel nuts are tied, one for each person to be present. You can of course go the local garden centre or even supermarket to buy the holly and ivy, but if possible the players should go together and best of all collect it from the countryside or a garden. If you can get fresh juniper this can be added as a third strand and the juniper oil omitted

2 Unshelled hazel nuts

3 Twine

4 Cooking oil, juniper essential oil and salt if you are using an open fire, other wise just the salt and juniper oil

If using holly and ivy leaves these can be set in a dish ready, three holly and three ivy leaves for each person

5 Either an open fire or a huge red candle embedded in sand in a deep metal fireproof bucket or sturdy deep metal pot

6 A traditional prayer book with the marriage ceremony ‘With this ring etc and the old marriage vows

7 A small dish of earth

8 Tea lights arranged so it is possible to read the prayer book in the dimly lit room

Game in a hurry

Burn alternate holly and ivy leaves in the candle and drop them in the sand as soon as they kindle

How to play

• When you are all in the room, lock the door and hang or set the key over the mantelpiece.
• Sit around the fire or central candle and work only by the tea lights and big candle if used
• Using either the fire or lighting the candle in the bucket, each person in turn from youngest to oldest pulls or cuts a hair from their head, saying ‘I offer this sacrifice to him most precious in my sight. May he come with wings of flame, and speak to me his own true name.’
• They then cast the hairs in the fire/candle in turn.
• The oldest person present wraps the chain around a log, sprinkles it with the cooking oil, three drops of juniper essential oil, a pinch of salt and a pinch of earth, and puts it to burn on the fire.
• Alternatively the oldest person sprinkles a handful of earth, a pinch of salt, and two drops of juniper oil on the holly and ivy leaves.
• She then holds the holly and ivy leaves in turn into the candle flame so they just catch light at the edge and drops them into the sand.
• In the meantime the others present take the prayer book open at the wedding service and take turns to read the wedding vows over and over again until the chain has burnt or all the holly and ivy leaves are gone.
• Then extinguish any lights and in the dimness each person will see his or her future husband or present lover crossing the room and feel their caress.


Half close your eyes in the dimness and allow an image to build up in your mind if you can’t actually see it externally. Even if you are unattached the image may be someone you work with but thought of as a friend or colleague-or your best friend’s brother who has always teased you. Send a message of love and you will feel the lightest touch or kiss

Follow up activities

Make dumb cakes

Go straight to the kitchen and using a flapjack or oatcake mix or a traditional recipe (traditionally oats, barley and water, which are a bit tasteless); work in silence with the other women to make a batch of dumb cakes.

Mark the initial of your lover if known or a question mark if unknown on top of one of the small cakes and bake them in the oven

At midnight the kitchen door will open and the spirit double of your true love will come and turn your cake. Everyone sees their own love.

Since he or she may appear only in your mind’s eye, be sure to set the oven timer for five minutes after midnight to avoid having to send for the fire brigade

Either eat the cake or if your lover is in the house feed it to him.


Christmas ghosts

What is it?

A traditional Christmas ghost story game as an antidote for too much food, hype and television.
Numbers of players: Any, the more the better

Event: Christmas night or any festive night, in pre Christian times the night of the Mid Winter Solstice around December 21. Suitable for family parties of mixed generations, excluding of course younger children; world weary teenagers and men love it; good also for gatherings where people are forced to spend Christmas together, perhaps in the forces or because they have been working on Christmas Day; good for house and hotel parties and also at New Year and Halloween

What you will need:

Pre written slips of paper with spooky key words on.
An old top hat or deep black box for holding the slips of paper.
A single lantern (you can get the kind with glass round and a tea light inside or electric ones that stay cool to touch)

About the game

Because Christmas and before that the Mid Winter Solstice/the Shortest day when the sun was said to be reborn, are a transition in the year, they are naturally associated with ghosts. In pre television days Christmas night was for singing carols and telling stories, a custom in my opinion that should be part of any Christmas gathering. In Victorian and Edwardian times Gothic style ghost and vampire stories were the staple of family Yuletide parties after supper and after dark.

The idea is that everyone sits round in darkness and a spooky word is chosen at random from the hat by an individual and must be woven into a collective scary story

The only light is that of the small lantern by which to read the words


About forty different words or phrases on pieces of paper
Be as inventive as you like as long as they have a spooky theme.

They might include:

Gothic ruined castle
Moving black shadows
Rattling chains
Deep dark dungeons
Devil hounds
Locked doors with no handles
Coffins that spring open
Groaning from within the earth
Eerie green glow
Bony hand on shoulder
Black cat with blazing eyes
Churchyard with open graves
Headless horsemen
Carriage wheels
Ghostly horn in the deserted forest
Bloody sword
Fiery axe
Windowless Tower
Swirling mist
Lifeless corpse
Old witch with bony fingers
Toad with jewel round neck
Bottomless black pool
Screech owl
Voices on the wind
Figure walking through wall
Hooded figure
Face dripping blood

Game in a hurry

Get everyone to write a scary word or phrase and put it in the hat

How to play

• Wait until it is late and the house is quiet.

• If people are staying have a dressing up box with face paints, hats, black clothes masks etc or invite guests to bring their own.

• Switch off all phones, stereo systems and television sets.

• Draw curtains in the room and extinguish all lights except for a small lantern in the centre of the room

• Everyone sits round in a circle on the floor and in turn the hat is passed round with the lantern. The first person picks a word or phrase from the hat and starts the ghost story.

• When they are ready, they leave the story at a crisis point and pass the hat and lantern to the next person. They take the next word and weave that into the story, again ending in suspense.

• When the hat has been round once, the lantern is extinguished (make sure you know where the light switch is in case anyone panics) and anyone can add to the story at any time.

The Results

The game ends when the story comes to natural conclusion


For once be as over the top as you like for this is a Victorian art and they loved horror and exaggeration. Aim to end your section on as high a note of suspense as possible
Follow up activities

Try these Christmas Night rituals to finish the evening on a fun note.

• Divide into men and women and have a contest to see who can sing the Holly and the Ivy all through loudest. Have a rehearsal first and stand up when you sing.

• Traditionally the carol was sung as a competition between the Ivy Queen and her maidens and the Holly King as his men The sex that sang loudest got to tell the other sex what to do the for the rest of the holiday.

• Bring out a dish of Christmas cake and describe the following old custom Walk upstairs backwards eating the piece of Christmas cake and place the crumbs beneath your pillow. You will dream of your true love-or a secret admirer

• Serve baked apple (with cream of course) as an alternative and have a bowl of holly sprigs ready. Everyone must take a sprig of holly and put it beneath the bed head in the centre. Traditionally it was sewn or pinned to the night attire but this can be a bit hazardous, especially if guest are merry. Sit up in bed and eat a baked apple and you will talk to your true love(or secret admirer in your dreams.


Traditional Psychic Christmas games our ancestors played Herb dipping

What are they?

Traditional party games first played in pre Christian times on the Mid Winter Solstice around December 21 when it was believed the Sun or the Sun King was reborn; very popular in mediaeval through to Victorian times

Number of players: Any number

Event: Any Christmas or pre Christmas party whether at work or with friends and family

What you will need:

Tiny purses or drawstring bags (you can make your own if you wish)
A selection of dried herbs and flowers
A large tub or barrel filled with sawdust or straw

About the game

In mediaeval times Christmas lasted for twelve days and even ordinary families would have big celebrations. However even in wealthy homes, many of the gifts as with the ones in this game were simple and hand-made with herbs and flowers gathered, dried and preserved through the year, so there was a good supply for this game that was often played on Christmas Eve.

The idea is based on the ancient folk meanings of common herbs (given below) that when selected from bran tub (originally bran was used as filling) told the fortune of the person who had picked it. They also acted as a good luck charm.

Game in a hurry

Cut up paper doilies or use Christmas paper to make small twists of herbs secured with ribbon. Use mainly dried cooking herbs, a huge supply in any supermarket; also fragrant herbal tea bags can be split and their contents used, two or three per herb bag


1 Dried herbs, flowers and spices Raid your kitchen cupboard, go along to the local herbal store or borrow from friends a selection from the list given below. You only need small quantities of each.
Use also dried chamomile flowers from a tea mix and dried lavender from any pharmacy or gift store. Dried rose petals and other dried flowers are widely available in home ware stores for making pot pourri and are excellent for fragrancing the home on stuffy winter days. Below I have given a wide selection. Choose any as long as you have a variety of fortune telling meanings

2 A small drawstring bag, tiny cloth purse or twist of fabric and a small ribbon in which to put a tablespoon of herbs or flowers. Have a fun pre party afternoon with friends, eating mince pies and filling the bags or enlist family members. One for each party goer and a few spares (ideal for little stocking fillers for unexpected guests over the Christmas period). In each bag write on a twist of paper the name of the herb or flower and a key word e.g. Sage wealth. Alternatively staple or glue a little label to the outside of each for identification

3 A tub or barrel filled with sawdust or wood chippings or straw to hold the herb bags

4 A large floor candle unlit.
Small lighted tea lights round the room

How to play:

• Drop the sealed bags into the bran tub before the party and have your list from this page ready to give extra information on the different herbs. You can have the original jars close to hand in case any labels fall out

• Dim the lights.

• Starting with the youngest person present , they must delve into the tub and say:

• ‘Herb of luck, herb of love, herb of health and joy, bring to me what I do wish, that Christmas I enjoy.’

• They name a wish silently and draw out a bag of herbs but do not open it.

• This continues till everyone has an herb bag but no one must open them.

• When everyone has a bag the hostess says: ‘Merry Christmas to you all’ and counts slowly down from ten. On nought the bags must be opened at the same time.

The Results

Everyone discovers the identity of their herbs and its basic meaning and the hostess can read out the longer message of the herb from this book or you can do that afterwards.

Herb Power

Almond flakes: Abundance, prosperity and love without limits.
Allspice: Money, courage, luck, healing
Angelica: (use cake decorations if you can’t get the herb) Banishes hostility from others, protection, healing, promises a golden future.
Anise/aniseed:Makes you young and beautiful/attractive and desirable to others
Dried Apple blossom as pot pourri ingredient or dried apple flakes:Fertility, health, love and long life
Balm, Lemon: Love, success, healing
Basil Love: travel, wealth, Conquers fear of flying.
Bay leaves: Protection, psychic powers, healing, fidelity, prosperity, fertility
Bergamot: as pot pourri ingredient Money, house moves, career, success
Carnation: Strength, healing, family devotion
Catnip: Cat magic, love, beauty, happiness in home, fertility
Cedar chips: Healing, house moves,, money, protection
Chamomile: Money, quiet sleep, affection and family
Cinnamon: Spirituality, success, healing, powers, psychic powers, money, love and passion
Cloves: Protection, banishing negativity, increased self-confidence, passion, love, money
Coconut flakes: Fertility and motherhood, the flow of new life and opportunities, health.
Coriander: Love, health, healing, for giving birth to wise and intelligent children, anti theft and loss of money or property
Curry mint: Protection against evil and malice, passion, prosperity
Dandelion(use dandelion tea) Brings love and long life, also a faithful lover
Dill: Protection, keeping home safe from enemies and those who have envy in their hearts; also for bringing money, passion, luck
Fennel Protection: healing, courage, travel, babies and children
Fenugreek seeds: Brings increased prosperity over a period of time, not only in resources but health and strength.
Feverfew: Attracts travel opportunities, house moves
Ginger: Love, passion, money, success, power
Heather: Passion, loyalty, fertility, long life, good luck.
Hibiscus found as pot pourri ingredient Passion, love, skill in divination, self-esteem
Ivy leaves(keep away from small children) Protection, healing, married love, fidelity, breaking possessiveness
Jasmine flowers as pot pourri ingredient Passion, moon magic, money, prophetic dreams
Juniper berries Protection, anti-theft, love, banishing negativity, brings good health protects against accidents; increases male potency, new beginnings
Kelp, seaweed, can buy it as powder Prosperity, travel overseas or good news from abroad
Lavender heads Love, protection, especially of children quiet sleep, long life, purification, happiness and peace, kindness in relationships
Lemon rind grated: New beginnings, energy, psychic protection, improved memory, employment
Lemongrass: Repels spite, protection against snakes, reptilian and human, passion, increases psychic awareness
Lemon verbena: Purification, love, self-esteem, protects against malice, good for job hunting
Lilac: as pot pourri ingredient Cleansing negativity, domestic happiness, contacting old friends and lovers from the past.
Marigold: as pot pourri ingredient Protection, prophetic dreams, legal matters, increases psychic powers, increasing love over time
Marjoram, sweet: Protection, love, happiness, health, money
Orange rind or dried blossom as pot pourri Love, marriage, abundance, self confidence, marriage and good luck
Parsley: Love, protection, divination, passion, removed bad habits
Pennyroyal: Strength, protection, peace, travel, good for business and new jobs
Peppermint: Money, protection while travelling, purification of bad habits, energy, love, healing, increases psychic powers
Pine:  Collect needles from park or from real Christmas tree Healing, fertility, purification, protection, money; returns hostility to sender
Poppy: as pot pourri ingredient Fertility, sleep, money, luck, invisibility in a threatening situation.
Rose petals: dried Love, enchantment of lovers, increases psychic powers, healing, love and love divination, luck, protection,
Rosemary: Love, passion, increases mental powers, banishes negativity and nightmares; also for purification, healing, quiet sleep, increasing radiance and charisma ,preserves youthfulness
Saffron: Love, healing, happiness, passion, strength, increases psychic powers and offers second sight
Sage: Wealth, long life, wisdom, protection, grants all wishes, improves memory, good health, power of all kinds, leadership.
Sagebrush: break up a small cheap smudge stick Purification, banishing negativity, empowerment, promotion
Spearmint: Healing, love, increasing memory and concentration, protection during sleep, improved job prospects
Tarragon: An herb traditionally associated with dragons, excellent for courage, new beginnings and overcoming any obstacles; good for insomniacs.
Thyme: Health, healing, prophetic dreams, increases psychic powers; improves memory, prosperity ,love , new job, courage
Valerian Love and love divination, quiet sleep, fertility ,purification, protection against hostility and rivals
Vanilla: Love, passion, marriage, increases mental acuity; fidelity, harmony
Vetivert: Love, breaking a run of bad luck, money, anti-theft, protects against all negativity and jealousy
Violet: dried as pot pourri Keeping secrets uncovering hidden talents, new love, love that cannot be revealed


Wish silently and as you put your hand in the bag, repeat the wish silently three times. You will find the herbs you chose relates to the wish

Follow-up Activities

After examining and discussing the contents the bags should be refastened and the central candle lit by the oldest person represent to represent the rebirth of light and hope at Christmas.

All other lights are extinguished except for the small tea lights round the room

Everyone walks in a circle nine times round the candle holding their bag and repeating the wish silently.
The candle is then blown out by everyone at the same time, who then shouts their wish at the same time.
Everyone stands in the darkness, counts to ten aloud and shouts Merry Christmas and may our wishes come true.’

The bags are taken home and kept till the fragrance disappears when they are scattered to the winds.

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