Monday 9 December 2013

Snapdragon was a popular parlour game from the 16th to 19th centuries. It was played during the winter, particularly on Christmas Eve or Twelfth Night. Brandy was heated and placed in a wide shallow bowl; raisins were placed in the brandy which was then set alight.

The aim of the game was to pluck the raisins out of the burning brandy and eat them, at the risk of being burnt. 
Other treats could also be used. Of these, almonds were the most common alternative or addition, but currants, candied fruit, figs, grapes, and plums also featured. Salt could also be sprinkled in the bowl. In one variation a Christmas pudding is placed in the centre of the bowl with raisins around it.

Did you know...?
In The Winter's Tale, Shakespeare used the word 'snapdraon' as a verb, to describe a moment when a ship at sea is instantly swallowed up by a storm.

Snapdragon is also mentioned in Alice Through the Looking Glass where Alice meets the peculiar Looking-Glass insects. One of them is the Snap-dragon-fly, with a body made of plum-pudding, its wings of holly leaves and its head a raisin burning in brandy. It lives on frumenty (a traditional Christmas porridge) and mince pies, and nests in a Christmas box.


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