The way we perceive party games nowadays is much different from what they used to be decades and centuries ago. There was no beer pong or truth or dare in the way that we know them, but the people of those times still knew how to have fun in their own way. So what were the first party games?
1. Vegetable Hop The host of the early 1900s game "vegetable hop" had to scatter various veggies throughout their backyard before the party started. Vegetables that are little, medium, and huge are valued at 5, 10, and 20 pounds, respectively. Each participant must take as many veggies as they can carry and return to the finish line on one foot. They'll have to start over if they drop the vegetables. The one with the most vegetables and the most points at the end wins. That game was probably harder than it sounds!
2. Colonial Mitten Apparently, the came Colonial Mitten was around since the 1700s, and George and Martha Washington would have their house guests play when they came over for dinner. Guests were required to wear thick wool mittens and were given a range of chores that would be impossible to do without the use of their fingers. Buttoning small baby garments, picking up individual grains of rice, and whatever else the party host could think of were among the jobs. When it came time to dine, everyone had to wear their mittens, and the party hosts had to come up with food that would be difficult to prepare without their fingers.
The winner was the person who could complete all of the tasks faster than the others. This game was played until the 1930s. It is probably for the best that this game is not widely played anymore. Sounds frustrating, right?
3. Bullet Pudding A modern party game that we all know – Jenga - may have been inspired by a British game called "bullet pudding" from the 1800s. The host took out a large serving tray and put a small mountain of flour on top of it. On top of the flour mountain, they placed a bullet. Each player would press their finger into the flour, causing a mini-avalanche of powder, and the bullet would roll down the sides or into the mound. Whoever caused the bullet to fall inside the pile must bury their face in the flour and pick up the metal ammunition with their teeth, similar to apple bobbing. Their face would be absolutely white and covered with flour when they came back up.
4. Curio Party A curio party was an adult version of a show-and-tell where folks invited their friends over to bring a trinket they bought on their travels. Cars were a new invention in the early 1900s, so it was much more exciting to explore what kinds of items were accessible in far-off cities and states that their acquaintances had likely never seen before. Adults are just big children, right? They like showing off their shiny new toys just as much!
5. Snap-Dragon There's a good reason why so few people nowadays play "snap-dragon." This game was created in the sixteenth century and has been played for hundreds of years. Guests at the party fill a metal dish or pan with brandy and place raisins at the bottom. The brandy is then set ablaze. The flame is usually so hot that it turns blue. The goal of the game is to grab the raisins and dried plums from the bottom of the burning brandy with your hands. The entire objective of the game, it seems, was to enjoy witnessing their buddies resemble evil spirits capable of picking up blue burning raisins and popping them into their mouths. Though snap-dragon is a fire safety hazard and a disaster waiting to happen, there are still people who play it to this day.
6. Hot Cockles Did you know that in the 1800s, Christmas day meant the kids were literally kicking each other? One person sits in a chair, while the other sits on their knees and rests their head in the lap of the person sitting down. The remaining children must kick the individual on their knees. They guess who just kicked them while their eyes are closed. If they guess correctly, they must stand up and hand over the spot to the next kid to be kicked. Nowadays we just kiss or touch each other’s buts and guess the person – sounds less violent.
7. Kitchen Sounds During the 1800s and 1900s, this game was very popular. People, it appears, would become quite competitive. The host or hostess of the party enters the kitchen, while the rest of the guests remain in another area within hearing distance of the kitchen. If required, they may need to drape a curtain or blanket across the doorway to obscure the player's view of the kitchen. The host must begin a kitchen activity, such as chopping vegetables, mopping the floor, or husking corn, to name a few. On the basis of sound alone, the player must guess what they are doing. A point is awarded to the first person to yell out the correct response. The winner is the person who can guess the most accurately towards the end. Your guests have already arrived but dinner is not ready yet? Just play kitchen sounds as a cover-up!
8. Wink Murder The game "wink murder" is similar to a murder mystery night, minus the costumes, characters, and intricate clues. Members of the party draw paper from a bowl. The role of the killer is given to one person, while the detective part is assigned to another. The rest of the visitors are ordinary people. No one is allowed to expose their identity, so everyone just goes about the evening talking, laughing, and drinking as they normally would. However, the murderer is expected to wink as soon as they make eye contact with someone. The individual who has been winked at must collapse on the floor and appear to die. For the rest of the party, they pretend to be dead. Before they can start over, the detective must determine who winked. What an excuse to demonstrate your acting skills and fall on the floor as dramatically as possible. I almost believe you didn’t rehearse that fall!
9. Christmas Forfeit This game was played mostly on Christmas Eve in the Victorian era, especially among the young 20-sometimes who were going to parties with other single people. Everyone participating in the game had to remove a piece of jewelry, a watch, a necktie, or other valuable item and place it in the box. The leader would randomly select objects and challenge the owner to do something to reclaim them. Many of these challenges were outrageous, such as asking a man to make out with at least five women before receiving his watch back. If he says no, the game's leader is required to keep his watch. Of course, playing this game was dangerous, and some children's family heirlooms were likely lost. Would you make out with half of the room to get your Gucci back? We’ll probably never find out.
10. A Hobo Party This concept is downright insulting and preposterous, so, it’s a good thing it ceased to exist. During the Great Depression, the concept of a "hobo" was really quite appealing. Hobos were even respected in certain ways since they were viewed as risk-takers who could hop on the next train and go across the country. The reality of a hobo's life was, of course, considerably different from the idealized depiction. A "Hobo Party" was all about dressing up as if you were homeless. Guests arrived all filthy and dressed in their shabby clothes. All of the games had a homeless theme, such as one that was similar to "musical chairs" but required participants to climb on top of crates that were intended to resemble box cars. When it came time to eat, partygoers had to beg for sandwiches, beer, and spare change from their neighbors. Party hosts were expected to notify their neighbors ahead of time that they were planning an adult version of trick-or-treating and supply refreshments for them. Luckily, these days’ rich people have other ways of feeling more relatable to “normal people”.
11. Paper Sack Party Last on our list is another odd 1900s game required party guests to wear a paper bag over their heads for the duration of the event. Each bag was labeled with a number. The goal of the game was to get people talking without them realizing who was hiding beneath the paper sack. They'd have to guess the person's identity based on the dialogue. Each person had a notepad on which they recorded who they thought the people were. One would expect that they could recognize their friends' sounds, but perhaps part of the fun in fooling with people was trying to conceal your voice. What a way to hide a bad hair day or unfortunate makeup!
If you’re craving a taste of history, maybe try one of these party games next time. We would advise strongly against snap-dragon or hobo party, but you do you. However, if you are a fan of modernity, check out Mad Party Games on our webshop and your favorite platforms!