Food is a central part of celebrations between families and friends – but it isn’t always eaten.
Sometimes food becomes a game, such as apple bobbing at Halloween or an egg-and-spoon race on school sports day.
Snapdragon was a hugely popular game in Victorian parlours on Christmas Eve. The lights were dimmed and a large, shallow dish was filled with brandy and raisins.
The brandy was then lit and the blue flames danced spookily, casting ghostly shadows and distorting the faces gathered around.
The aim of the game was to snatch the burning raisins from the flames and pop them in your mouth without burning yourself. In one tradition a gold button is the ‘lucky raisin’ and the winner gets to choose a reward.
In other versions the person who plucked out the most raisins would meet their true love that year. Third degree burns on your fingers was obviously a point of pride.
By the early 20th century, too many burned little fingers meant the game had grown out of favour.
However, the practice of burning the alcohol was also used as a drinking game in the 19th century when drinkers placed an edible item in a glass of liquor, set it alight and knocked it back. Sound familiar?
This tradition lives on today as the Flaming Lamborghini cocktail, though I’m guessing the Victorians didn’t call their version the flaming landau.