Bullet Pudding

On the fourth day of Christmas
My true love sent to me
Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Holy Innocents Day is dedicated to children on the day Herod ordered the slaughter of children aged two or under, in an attempt to kill the prophesied Messiah.

It is, therefore, as far as fokllore is concerned, an ill-omened day so don’t begin any new enterprise or, indeed, attempt to go back to work. And remember, as Childermass falls on a Tuesday this year, Tuesdays throughout the year are all ill-omened days. Weather wise, as the third day of Christmas is warm and damp expect the third month, March, to be similarly damp and wet.

So, despite your desire to go back to work, it’s best to spend the time in Christmas Games. The one I remember, most fondly, is pick-up-sticks or spillikins. You drop a pile of sticks onto a table top and then have to pick up the sticks without disturbing any other.

Pick-up-sticks or Spillikins

Another game we played at parties was, I discovered when researching for my Jane Austen’s Christmas Walk, also played in the Austen family. They called in Bullet Pudding. I don’t think we had a name for it, but it involves putting flour in a bowl, upending it on a plate, putting a bullet (in our case a coin) on the top . A knife is placed by the side, people dance around the plate, and whoever the knife is pointing at when the music stops has to cut a slice of the flour mountain.

Eventually, the coin will collapse, and the hapless winner, according to Jane’s niece

‘must poke about with their noise & chins till they find it & then take it out with their mouths which makes them strange figures all covered with flour but the worst is that you must not laugh for fear of the flour getting up your nose & mouth & choking you. You must not use your hands in taking the bullet out.’

In my family we pushed the winner’s head into the flour to maximise the fun.

Christmas at Godmersham Park

1811 to 1812 Fanny Knight, Jane Austen’s niece writing to a friend Miss Dorothy Chapman

‘I don’t know whether I told you that the Miss Morris’s are at home for the Christmas holidays. They are very nice girls and have contributed a good deal to our entertainment.

None of us caught the whooping cough and have been very well the whole time.
We have in general had cards, snapdragons, bullet pudding etc on any particular evening and Whist, Commerce and others and Tickets were the favourite games.

I think when cards fail the boys played every evening at draughts, chess and backgammon.’

Snapdragons is a very dangerous game! A tray is filled with brandy, raisins are sprinkled in; the brandy set on fire, and the game is to retrieve and eat the raisins without receiving first degree burns.

Commerce and Tickets are both gambling games. Tickets played by exchanging lottery tickets, and commerce is a three card poker type game played with counters

Other games mentioned by Fanny

Hunt the Slipper, Oranges and Lemons, Wind the Jack, Lighting a Candle in Haste; Spare Old Noll.

Remember, on 2nd January 7.30 I am doing my annual ‘Ring in the New Year’ virtual walk where I look at all things new year. To see more details click here:

Please leave me a comment - its great to hear what you think.

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