"Hey, I have a great Christmas game to play...we'll put raisins in a big bowl of flaming brandy, and you have to pick the raisins out with your fingers!" Did your hand shoot up? Well, it should've...this is a game that's been played in Minnesota for centuries.

This Cannot Really Be A Christmas Game

Supplies. Hamilton Civic Museums
Supplies. Hamilton Civic Museums

Oh, it's real. And kids play it. It's called many different names, Snap Dragon, Flap-dragon, Snapdragon, or Flapdragon (but NOT Flapdoodle's thank you very much). According to Wiki, it was played in England, Canada, and the United States.

They'd put the lights out, the bowl of blue fire was eerie because the flames were above it, not right on it.

"The game is described in Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language (1755) as "a play in which they catch raisins out of burning brandy and, extinguishing them by closing the mouth, eat them." (Source)

You put the fire out by putting the fire in your mouth! But wait, there's more.

"According to an article in Richard Steele's Tatler magazine, "the wantonness of the thing was to see each other look like a demon, as we burnt ourselves, and snatched out the fruit." (Source)

Burning yourself was part of the plan, apparently. I guess it had to be, you're putting your fingers in bowls of burning brandy.

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But What Was The Point of the Game?

HALLOWEEN PLAY - Kate Mishriki
You have to be blazing fast - Kate Mishriki

Besides burning yourself and maybe your hair, clothes, face, and house? Some play it saying if you snatch the most raisins, you will meet your true love within a year. Another way to play it is to put gold coins in a few of the raisins and you win the flaming hot coin inside the flaming raisin you just put in your mouth.

In the USA it was played both on Halloween and Christmas. And with Catholics, especially, it was played on Twelfth Night (Epiphany or also known as January 6th when the Wise Men finally got to meet Jesus. "Sorry we were so late, the only rental Hertz Rent A Mode of Transport had was a compact camel.")

Please Tell Me There Is a Chant To Go Along With the Game

Robert Chambers (1802 -1871), Scottish editor, bookseller and scientist. From The History of Phrenology on the Web
Robert Chambers (1802 -1871), Scottish editor, bookseller and scientist. From The History of Phrenology on the Web

Of course! What creepy/dangerous game would be complete without children chanting. It comes from a book by Robert Chambers (above).

Here he comes with flaming bowl,
Don't he mean to take his toll,
Snip! Snap! Dragon!

Take care you don't take too much,
Be not greedy in your clutch,
Snip! Snap! Dragon!

With his blue and lapping tongue
Many of you will be stung,
Snip! Snap! Dragon!

For he snaps at all that comes
Snatching at his feast of plums,
Snip! Snap! Dragon!

But Old Christmas makes him come,
Though he looks so fee! fa! fum!
Snip! Snap! Dragon!

Don't 'ee fear him but be bold –
Out he goes his flames are cold,
Snip! Snap! Dragon!

(From: Chambers Book of Days (The Book of Days: A Miscellany of Popular Antiquities in Connection with the Calendar, Including Anecdote, Biography, & History, Curiosities of Literature and Oddities of Human Life and Character)


It's Not Against The Law in Minnesota?

It is not. And really, it probably shouldn't be. After all, there's no way to enforce the law except after when someone's been burned so badly the information becomes public. And at that point, what punishment could be worse than being burned that badly?

Click Play and Watch for Flaming Raisins On the Table

Did you see the flaming raisin? Here's a still from the video.

Flame on the table- Kate Mishriki

Have you played it? As always, if you have a comment, complaint, or concern about something I wrote here, please let me know: james.rabe@townsquaremedia.com


Listen On-Demand with the Y105FM app, and on the following podcast platforms: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify

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