November is fast approaching and we're looking forward to the start of the festive season. One of the things we most enjoy is entertaining at home with friends and family and playing good old fashioned games. And we've been inspired to take a closer look at the stories behind some of our traditional entertainment.
With Halloween lurking around the corner, we're getting our apples all lined up for apple bobbing - still one of the most popular party games at this time of year. Like many traditions, there are several different stories about how it started, but we've traced it back to the Roman invasion of Britain.
The Romans seemed to have had a god for anything and everything - their fruit goddess was called Pomona and she was symbolised by an apple. Their legends became intertwined with Celtic mythology and Celt elders often used apple pips for divining matters of love and fertility.
Unsurprisingly, the game of apple bobbing became a courting ritual. Whichever girl managed to take the first bite would be the first to marry - and if she put the apple under her pillow, she'd dream about her future partner that night. Now that's something we haven't tried yet!
It's been more than four centuries since Guy Fawkes and his team failed to blow up the Houses of Parliament, but we're still happy to celebrate! Many people go to public parties as there are so many great local large firework displays and safety concerns, as well as costs, have increased over the years.
During both World Wars, though, outdoor displays were banned and so families had to celebrate inside the house with indoor fireworks only. Did you know that up until 1959 it was illegal not to celebrate Bonfire Night in Britain? We certainly didn't!
The current Guinness Word Record holder for the largest firework display is the Church of Christ in the Philipines, who launched an astonishing 810,904 fireworks for an hour long New Year's Eve display two years ago. All of which took place in the pouring rain!
One of our favourite dinner party traditions, especially after a glass of fizz, is a spot of acting - murder mystery games are great, especially if everyone's willing to dress up in character! Often we'll stick with charades, though, as it's quicker and usually easier to guess the answers.
That didn't always use to be the case, however. When the game was first invented by the French, it was intended to be more of a literary riddle. It allowed people to verbally show off their knowledge of tricky language and play on words instead of acting.
Charades became very popular in Regency times and appears several times in Jane Austen's writings. To make it even more difficult, it was usually written in verse and had to rhyme - we'll definitely stick to acting!
Lastly, it wouldn't be Christmas for us without getting our playing cards out! Games such as whist were popularised in Victorian England, although children had to make do with their own, often "educational" sets. They weren't allowed to play with adult card sets in case it encouraged them to gamble.
There are lots of theories about the history of playing cards, but it's generally agreed that they were first used in China. They were much thinner than modern cards and were often linked to paper money. One version had numbered pips at the top and bottom and this eventually developed into the game of dominoes.
Cards seem to have reached Europe by the fourteenth century via Egypt. Some decks then included additional mystical and individually painted "high cards" - the precursor of Tarot cards. The French-based suits we now use supposedly represented four classes of society - clergy (hearts), peasants (clubs), merchants (diamonds) and nobles (spades).
We just wish we could make a house of cards that looks like this!
Games make great presents at any time of year, but are particularly welcome at Christmas for entertaining family and friends with a wide range of ages and interests. Here's our seasonal selection of gift ideas - and hopefully you may start some new party traditions yourself!
Our Music and Pub Quiz and Murder Mystery games are perfect accompaniments to dinner parties … and adults and older children (14+) will also love Weird Things Humans Search For and Obama-LLama or the death-defying Bucket of Doom (aged 17+) game. Children aged 8+ and older family members will enjoy award-winning The Mind and Dragonwood - and Outfoxed is ideal for younger children (5+).