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Christmas parlor games

Or activities to entertain your family and avoid holiday meltdowns

Published: Monday, Dec. 22 2008 1:17 p.m. MST

Christmas is a time for parties and games — the more the merrier.

Back in the days when people had parlors and had to make up their own entertainment, parlor games were a fun pastime. Remember the scene in "A Christmas Carol" when they played The Minister's Cat?

You, too, can have that same old-fashioned fun with some of these holiday games.

Writing games

In other words

Can you guess the names of these Christmas songs?

1. Tucked into a desolate point halfway to spring

2. Winged beings belonging to effulgent kingdoms.

3. A chocolate-covered cake blithely floating above.

4. Questions come to me while I aimlessly rove.

5. A special winter day devoid of any color.

6. Ascend, Oh crook user and come after.

7. I won't be off in some distant place when it's time to open presents.

8. The smog-less bewitching hour arrived.

9. Leave and do an elevated broadcast.

10. That exiguous hamlet south of the holy city.

11. Oh, member of the round table with missing areas.

12. Cup-shaped instruments fashioned of a whitish metallic element.

13. May the Deity bestow an absence of fatigue to mild male humans.

14. Obese personification fabricated of compressed mounds of minute crystals.

15. Tranquility upon the terrestrial sphere.

16. Listen, the celestial messengers produce harmonious sounds.

17. Nocturnal time span of unbroken quietness.

18. An emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good given to the terrestrial sphere.

19. Diminutive, masculine master of skin covered percussionist cylinders.

20. Move hitherward the entire assembly of those who are loyal and devout in their belief.

21. The Christmas preceding all others.

22. As the guardians of woolly animals protected their charges in the shadows of the Earth.

23. In a feeding trough for farm animals placed in a distant location.

24. 288 hours of Yuletide.

25. Do you perceive the same longitudinal pressure which stimulates my auditory sense organs?

(Answers at end of story)

Reindeer scramble

Give players a paper with the following scrambled words (or make up some of your own). The player who unscrambles them all first wins the prize. Or, set a time limit, see who gets the most.

dolruhp (Rudolph) tmceo (Comet) ndcare (Dancer) hslige (sleigh) pduic (Cupid) caks (sack)

ndored (Donder) veels (elves) rathew (wreath)

snperets (presents) gthin (night) nrrcpae (Prancer)

ltzbine (Blitzen) lootrhnep (North Pole) sshrctima (Christmas)

hsreda (Dasher) lnretsa (antlers) eeerirndr (reindeer)

rwtsa (straw) naats (Santa) onse (nose)

ovhoes (hooves) tlarhe (halter) megas (games)

nxeiv (Vixen) oootrpf (rooftop) yhsni (shiny)

nersi (reins) lbles (bells) lyljo (jolly)

A head for art

Give each player a large, flat book and a paper and pencil. Each person places the book on his head with the paper on it. Without looking, each player must draw — in this order:

1. A line for a floor.

2. A Christmas tree.

3. A fireplace with a mantel next to the tree.

4. A star on top of the tree.

5. A stocking hanging from the mantel of your fireplace.

6. A present under the tree.

Then award the following points:

1. 2 points if the tree touches the floor.

2. 2 points if your stocking touches the mantel.

3. 1 point if your star touches the tree.

4. 1 point if your star is above your tree.

5. 1 point for each Christmas decoration on the tree (since you didn't specifically ask for them, this is extra credit).

6. 1 point if your fireplace doesn't touch the tree (because that's a fire hazard).

7. 1 point if your present is under the tree.

8. 1 point if there is a decoration on your stocking (again,this is extra credit).

Add up the points, and the one with the most points wins.

Guggenheim

This was the inspiration for the board game Scattergories, but can be easily done with just paper and pencil. Give each player a paper and have him write a word across the top in big, spaced-out letters. Use something like HOLIDAY or PARTY or your last name or CHRISTMAS (with the extra S as a bonus). You can print these in advance to save time.

Then write several categories down the side, such as: foods, tools, birds, places, books, songs, colors, characters, etc.

During the time limit, players must come up with a word in each category that starts with the letters across the top. At the end, each player reads off his words, and anyone else who has that word must cross it off. The one with the most words left at the end is the winner.

Remembering Christmas

Gather up about 25 or so small objects related to Christmas and put them on a tray. Put the tray in the center of the room and give people three minutes to study the items. Then remove the tray, give everyone a paper and pencil and see who can come up with the most items.

Circle games

ho, ho, ho

One player stands in the middle with a handkerchief. As he drops the handkerchief to the floor, everyone must laugh. They must stop laughing as soon as the cloth hits the floor. Anyone who doesn't laugh the whole time the handkerchief is falling or continues to laugh after it ends is out. The last person remaining wins the prize.

Christmas snooze

Put a folded slip of paper for each person in a bowl; on one slip, write the word "elf." Have a lighted candle or other small light to put in the center of the room or table, or use the light of the Christmas tree. Turn off all other lights.

Each person draws a slip of paper, and the one who gets the "elf" is it. He must slowly and secretly wink at another member of the party. That member then falls asleep. The object is for other people to guess who the elf is before everyone can be put to sleep. Take turns guessing, but there should also be a penalty for an incorrect guess, such as having to skip a turn. If the elf can put everyone to sleep before his identity is discovered, he wins a prize. If not, put the papers back in the bowl and let someone else be the elf.

Unwrapped

Wrap a present in several layers of paper. After each layer, add a slip of paper with a specific instruction, such as: give this present to a person who is wearing green; sing a verse of your favorite carol; prance around like a reindeer; give this present to someone who's name starts with C, etc. Play some Christmas music, and as you play, the present is passed around. When the music stops, that person must remove one layer of paper and perform the required task. Whoever removes the final layer of wrapping gets to keep the present.

What's in the stocking?

Fill an oversized Christmas stocking with a number of holiday objects. You can use things like holly, tape, pine cones, candy canes, Christmas ornaments, etc. Close the top, so you can't see inside. Pass the stocking around and let everyone feel it. Then give them a piece of paper to write down as many objects as they can. The one with the most correct answers wins.

If you have a large groups, you can use two stockings. Just make sure they are filled with the same items.

ACTIVITY GAMES

CANDY CANE RELAY

You need two inflated balloons and two candy canes. Divide into two teams and decide on a common goal line. Each team lines up. The object is to balance the balloon on the candy cane and carry it across the goal line and back. If the balloon falls off, it must be replaced before the person can continue on. The first team to get their members across the line and back wins.

LUCKY CHOCOLATE

Wrap a large chocolate bar in several layers of Christmas paper. Each layer should be secured with ribbon or string. Put the parcel on a table with a knife and fork. On a chair next to the table have a hat, a scarf and a pair of gloves.

Players sit in a circle and take turns shaking a die. When a person shakes a 6, he must go to the table, put on the hat, scarf and gloves, and then use the knife and fork to remove a layer of paper. He can keep working until another player rolls and six, and then that player must come and put on the gear and keep working.

Once the wrapping is removed, use the knife and fork to cut off a piece of chocolate to eat. The game ends when all the chocolate is gone.

FLY, ANGEL, FLY

Draw an angel face (with halo) on a ping pong ball, and put it in the center of the table. Divide players into two teams; each team is on one side of the table. The object is to blow the angel off the other team's side of the tables. Your team gets a point every time it goes off. At the end of a time limit, the team with the most points wins.

SANTA'S HELPERS

Divide the players into teams of two. Give each a present and wrapping materials. The object is to be the first team to get their present wrapped. But there's a catch. Each person can use only one hand; the other must be held behind the back. To get the job done, team members will have to communicate and work together.

THE BLIND COOK

The player has a large spoon, a bowl of marshmallows and a blindfold. The player must put on the blindfold and try to transfer as many marshmallows as he can to another bowl during a one-minute time limit. When his time is up, tally up the marshmallows and then the next player gets a turn. After all players have had a try, the one who scooped the most marshmallows wins — and everyone gets to eat the marshmallows.

BERSERK BALLOONS

Each participant blows up a balloon and ties it to his or her ankle with a bit of yarn. On the given command, the guests — using only their feet — try to burst the balloons of the other players. As soon as your balloon is popped, you are out. The last one to have an unpopped balloon wins.

CHRISTMAS TREE RIP

Give each player a piece of green construction paper. Holding it behind their backs, they must rip the paper into the shape of a Christmas tree. Players are not allowed to look until they are done. Once they have their tree, players can add some decorations torn from other construction paper. Hang up the works of art and let everyone pick the best-looking tree.

GOOD MIXERS

HIDING IN THE YULE LOG

Write down the names of forest creatures, such as bird, deer, squirrel, raccoon, caterpillar, etc. Pin one name to each person's back. They must try to guess their identify by asking yes-and-no questions of other players. The first person who guess who is hiding in his yule log wins.

CHRISTMAS CHARACTERS

Write the names of various Christmas characters on Post-it Notes, and post one of each person's forehead. Each player must try to identify who he is by asking yes or no questions of the other players. The first one to correctly guess wins. Use such characters as Santa, Frosty the Snowman, Scrooge, the Ghost of Christmas Past, a Herald Angel, a Wise Man, etc.

Family tree

Divide players into teams of four or five and give each team a bag filled with crepe paper, aluminum foil, masking tape, Christmas decorations, construction paper, etc. Each team will pick a player to be their living Christmas tree. The other players get to decorate the tree as best they can during a set time limit. At the end of the time, have an impartial judge pick the best tree.

The Minister's Cat

Players sit in a circle, and the first player describes the cat with an adjective beginning with the letter A. Each player does the same, using a different adjective. The next round continues with the letter B and so on through the alphabet. A player is out if he repeats a word already used or can't think of an adjective. The last player left wins.

A variation involves the first player using A, the second B and so forth. Players can also clap to establish a rhythm, and set a time frame for answers. If a player takes too long, he is out.

ANSWERS to IN OTHER WORDS

1. In the Bleak mid-winter.

2. Angels From the Realms of Glory

3. Ding! Dong! Merrily on High

4. I Wonder as I Wonder

5. White Christmas

6. Rise Up Shepherd and Follow

7. I'll Be Home for Christmas

8. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

9. Go Tell It On the Mountain

10. O Little Town of Bethlehem

11. O Holy Night

12. Silver Bells

13. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

14. Frosty the Snowman

15. Peace on Earth

16. Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

17. Silent Night

18. Joy to the World

19. Little Drummer Boy

20. O, Come All Ye Faithful

21. The First Noel

22. As Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night

23. Away in the Manger

24. The 12 Days of Christmas

25. Do You Hear What I Hear?

Sources: "The Games Treasury," by Merilyn Simonds Mohr, Chapters.

"Great Games," Running Press Gem

"Countdown to Christmas," by Charlotte Argyle and Taffy Davidson, Gibbs-Smith Publishers

www.celebrating-christmas.com

www.partygameideas.com

www.partygamecentral.com

www.centrinet.com

www.familyfun.com

www.santalady.com

E-mail: carma@desnews.com

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