Silly old games put the fun into the festivities
Festive traditions are great but they can also take their toll. Whatever happens, Christmas is also a time for having a laugh, writes Victoria Mary Clarke
I like the traditional Christmas as much as anyone. But there always seems to be so much work involved in it. The cooking rituals in particular seem to be designed so that they must be executed with military precision or else it will all go horribly wrong and the people who are doing the cooking will feel like they failed Masterchef.
If you are not five, there isn't a lot of room for actual fun in this situation. I have given this a great deal of thought and while I have eaten a lot of turkeys and plum puddings over the years, I couldn't tell you anything about them now. And that is why my quest this year is for the most fun that can possibly be had within this tradition. To which end I have researched the best ways to do this.
One lovely young man told me that each Christmas without fail, he and his siblings play a game called 'Are you there, Moriarty?' The concept, he explained, is not simple, and I would have to pay close attention if I am going to get it right. What you do, he said is you get a newspaper and roll it up and then tape it so it becomes a hard, cylindrical object much like a truncheon. Then you and the other players get into pairs, are blindfolded, and hold hands. One person holds the newspaper truncheon and asks the other one "Are you there, Moriarty?" The other person must respond by saying "yes", whereupon he or she is beaten violently with the truncheon. "It is loads of fun," he assured me. I promised him I would try it.
Another family I met have a slightly less violent game. They all get dressed up in their best Christmas jumpers and then they put up a special white board on the wall, with a list of all of the relations they intend to visit, along with a scoring system for the amount of festive cheer that each house demonstrates. Then they pile in the car and drop in on them unannounced, scoring them on all aspects of their festivities including the decorations, the ambience, the food, the costumes. The winner get a life-sized chocolate Santa .
If the British royal family happened to be included in this competition, they could well be in the running, as it is well known that HM the Queen adores games, especially charades, and she is a huge fan of ridiculous presents. Prince Harry once gave her a hat which said "Life's a Bitch", which says a lot about the joviality levels in that household.
One of my favourite festive games is one that I learned from Kate Moss and it can be played absolutely anywhere except perhaps in church. It is called 'Human Jukebox' and the way it works is one person says a word, for instance you might say "baby". Then everyone else has to sing songs with that word in them until someone can't think of any more songs and that person is eliminated. It is a great game for really long car journeys.
Speaking of singing, Christmas is clearly a time for carols and Christmas songs which can be fun. In our house we play a game in which we compete to see who can sing Fairytale of New York in the shortest possible time and with the least amount of drawing breath.
Another fun family game that I learned and have not been able to forget is 'Blind snog' (this can also be played as 'Blind shag') which is based on the old TV show Blind Date. The contestant is blindfolded and led into a room with a row of people whom he or she must snog, and then successfully identify. This is obviously not necessarily one for all the family.
Like the Queen, we love charades, and it wouldn't be Christmas without them but we have occasionally come up with more sophisticated versions like the 'Interpretive dance' game in which one person dances and the others have to guess what he or she is trying to communicate. This one can take ages.
If you have the patience, it can be enormous fun to memorise an entire show and act it out for the family. The absolute best that I have ever experienced, and the one that had me rolling around laughing was when my nieces acted out every single episode of the Sminky Shorts cartoons with completely perfect accents.
It is great to get some fresh air at Christmas, to get the appetite fired up. We always begin the day with a swim in the freezing cold sea. This might sound hideous, but trust me, you feel amazing when you get out, and even if you just watch the others, you are guaranteed a laugh.
If you live in a house where people are lazy and just want to eat too much and fall asleep, you may need to go extremes and drag them to a funfair. I don't have a head for heights, and I am kind of a wimp, but I love a trip to Funderland. I only ever go on the kiddy carousels and eat candyfloss, but I love to marvel at everyone else screaming their heads off, and to wonder what it must be like.
If you live in the country and there isn't a funfair, there is a huge variety of old-fashioned outdoor games which everyone can enjoy, and which will amuse absolutely anyone, even the most cynical teenager. My personal favourites are welly-tossing, potato-on-a-spoon racing and tug of war. But you musn't forget sack-racing and two-legged racing. For most entertainment, these are best played in lots of mud.
So if you manage to get through the cooking and you find yourself with a yearning to roll around laughing, you know what to do.
© Victoria Mary Clarke