Hot Cockles

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An extremely popular game at Victorian Christmas parties. One player sits down, another player is blindfolded, kneels, and places his/her head in the sitter's lap. The kneeler places an open hand on his/her back, with palm uppermost, which other players take it in turns to strike, and the kneeler must guess who has struck the blow. Hot Cockles was thus one of several traditional games in which someone has to guess who has hit or touched them, and it also existed as a street and playground game, no doubt played more robustly there than in the Victorian drawing-room. Certainly, in mixed company, it allowed some mild flirtation. The game can claim some considerable antiquity, being referred to by name as early as 1549 and 1590, and an illustration from a 14th-century manuscript, printed by Strutt, appears to take the game back even further in time.

Gomme, 1894: i. 229–31;Opie and Opie, 1969: 292–4;Strutt, 1801/1876: 501–2.

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