Stuart Christmas fun and games

A Stuart Christmas would last for several months! They filled their time with lots of fun and games, how many do you recognise?

Stuart Christmas Games

The Stuarts liked to play games at Christmas. Here are some popular games that they enjoyed. How many do you recognise?

Hot cockles

One person was blindfolded and knelt with his or her head on the lap of someone sitting on a chair. They placed their hand in the small of their back, palm upwards, and called out 'hot cockles hot'. The other players hit the palm of the hand and the blindfolded player had to guess who struck the blow.
Leith halfpenny token

Cross and pyle

This is a similar game to heads and tails. You spun a coin and guessed the outcome. Adults bet on the fall of the coin.


A token or item such as a handkerchief was collected from each player. Each player had to win back his or her possession by a forfeit. You might sing a song, dance a jig or recite a poem.

Question and command

A commander may order his or her subjects to answer any 'lawful' question. Any player who cannot answer must pay a fine or forfeit.

Hood-man blind

You know this game as blind-man's buff.

Hoop and hide

Our game of hide and seek.


A form of nine pins or skittles.
Pall Mall

Paille Maille

A French game the English called Pell Mell. It was a cross between golf and croquet. It was played on a ground 850 yards long with a hoop at each end. The idea was to knock a ball through a hoop with a mallet.

Did you know..?

Pall Mall in London was the site of the first Paille Maille alley, hence it's name!

Yawning for the Cheshire cheese

This was the last game, towards midnight. Everyone sat in a circle and yawned. Whoever yawned the longest, widest and loudest won a large Cheshire cheese.

Stuart Christmas fun 

It wasn't just games that the Stuarts enjoyed. The 'Lord of Misrule' oversaw the entire holiday and also made sure there was lots of entertainment. 
Illustration of William Kempe Morris dancing from London to Norwich in 1600

Morris dancers and mummers

Morris or 'Moorish' dances were popular at Christmas. The dancer dressed in a colourful, outlandish costume covered in ribbon and bells.
Mummers' plays were part of the Christmas celebration. In England, St. George was the hero. These plays had lots of action fight scenes and comedy.


At court, plays with music, dancing, singing and acting were performed. These were called masques. Special Christmas masques were spectacular with dazzling costumes, special effects, fireworks, fountains and the king and queen playing starring roles.

Twelfth Night

Also called the Feast of the Epiphany (when Jesus was seen by the Three Wise Men), this was the traditional end of the Christmas holiday. Twelfth Night was the best party of the year and everyone enjoyed themselves so much they went slightly mad. One person was chosen to lead the madness.
A special cake was prepared for this. It contained wonderful ingredients but also a dried bean and a dried pea. The cake was divided so that one man got the bean and one woman got the pea. If a woman found the pea she would be the queen for the evening. If a woman found the bean she could choose the king and vice versa. They ruled as king and queen until midnight.
Sing a song of sixpence

Did you know..?

One of the best comic features of Twelfth Night was a surprise pie. This was a large pastry case and lid baked empty. When the pie was cool, holes were cut in the bottom and it was filled with live birds and frogs. Does this remind you of a well-known nursery rhyme?
To find out more about the luxury and excess of the Stuart court visit Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution