December 21, 2015

The Civil War Era, Crazy Christmas Game of Plum Pudding

The holiday season is upon us, even if it doesn't feel like it outside but that means holiday cheer and merriment. What better way to celebrate than with some Christmas cheer of old? The Game of Plum Pudding is a fun way to add some mid 19th century fun to your modern holidays.   

The game is played with two teams. Each person is assigned a name that has a military title and an item that is part of a holiday meal, such as "General Goose." Players take turns spinning a wooden disk, referred to as the plum pudding, while telling a story from the perspective of the object in their name. Players get penalized if they drop the wooden disk, if they say something not in character, refer to someone by the wrong assigned name or forget to mention the "plum pudding" in their story.

The penalties are crazy. In one case a player may be required to kiss every lady in the room and have each lady slap them in return. In another a player must select a person to kiss and other players try to prevent the kiss from happening and in the worst penalty, every person in the room has to say something unfavorable about the player.      

The game was invented by Charles H. Bennett, a famous illustrator of the time known for his work in Punch Magazine.  The rules first appeared in 1857 and have been since published all the way up to the 1880s under the names of the "Field of the Cloth of Damask" or the "Game of Plum Pudding." In William Wallace Fyfe's Christmas, its Customs and its Carols published in 1860, the game is used as an example of Christmas "fun and frolic" of the day.  

This game likely requires a fair amount of eggnog or punch. You can almost picture the young gentleman who gets the chance to kiss a special favorite or  the moment when a popular belle looks around at a room of hopeful bachelors only to bestow her kiss on her grandfather. Those cheeky Victorians. 

If anyone plays, let me know how it goes!


Arnold, George. The Sociable, Or, One Thousand and One Home Amusements Containing Acting Proverbs, Dramatic Charades, or Drawing-room Pantomimes, Musical Burlesques, Tableaux Vivants, Parlor Games ... New York: Dick & Fitzgerald, 1858. 186-187.

Frikell, Wiljalba. Fireside Games for Winter Evening Amusement. New York: Dick & Fitzgerald, 1859. 14-18.

Fyfe, William Wallace. Christmas; Its Customs and Carols. With Compressed Vocal Score of Select Choral Illustrations. London: J. Blackwood, 1860. 47-50.

December 3, 2015

Soldier's Christmas at Graeme Park and Needlebooks from Fanciful Utility

 Last weekend I went to the timeline Soldier's Christmas event at Graeme Park in Horsham, PA with the Dixie Marauders. The event had reenactors representing the Christmas holiday in the 1770s, 1860s, 1914s, and 1940s.   We put together an 1860s Christmas display. The display included things that ladies on the homefront would send soldiers, such as sheet music, food and games.

This event gave me a chance to make the Scotch Short-cake recipe and to make some needlebooks based on the information found in Fanciful Utility, which I highly recommend if you are interested in small projects. Needlebooks were the perfect thing to make as small gifts for this event. They came together quickly and each contained, pins, needles, thread and a few spare buttons.      

Closeup of the Needlebooks.

Our display which included sheet music, sugar plumbs, scotch short-cake, coffee, rice, farina, games, packing advice, and more.

The event was packed, even with the threat of and eventual rain. The site was collecting donations to send to the troops oversees and a lot of veterans came out to show support. The husband and wife pictured above were my favorite. The wife was blind but her husband made sure she got to see everything. 

For those of you interested in Fanciful Utility, I highly recommend it. The book has 68 projects including templates and instructions for various needlebooks and sewing cases. It also shows various decorative stitches and techniques and gives advice for period fabric choices and colors.     

We ended up making our own very basic needlebook pattern based on the the advice in the book as suited to our needs but they're nothing compared to the awesome recreations from the book as seen in the video at the bottom.  

Click to see the video!

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