Harley Hay: Family games during Christmas

Monopoly, Trouble, Kerplunk. Sorry, Stratego, Battleship. Minecraft, Super Smash Bros, the Legend of Zelda. No matter whether you’re positively Prehistoric or magnificently modern, games have always been, and always will be, a big part of Christmas. The holiday season is a traditional time to gather family and friends, dig out the ole board games and/or hook up the Nintendo console, remove all the breakables, and let the fur fly.

I know we certainly did this year. I personally spent about two months doing a two-day job (with help) building a wooden game for each of my three rotten nieces and nephews. The game is cheekily called “Pucket” (also known as “Sling Hockey”) and it involves a small sort-of hockey rink using bungie cords to propel 16 pucks. Needless to say, playing Pucket is not a quiet contemplative endeavour like say, chess, or arm wrestling. In fact, in the heat of battle, you would think the Oilers and the Flames were scrapping it out in triple overtime. And on Christmas Eve, we had three games going simultaneously. I was a bit worried the neighbours were going to call the cops.

And as if that wasn’t enough cacophony for one night, the rotten niece (Kelly) brought out something I think is officially called “The Insane Reindeer Antler Ring Toss Mayhem Maker.” Each person got a set of meter-wide inflatable “antlers” that you wear on your head, and a bunch of “safe” inflatable six-inch rings and the idea is to try to toss the rings onto the prongs of someone’s antlers. As you can well imagine, in about three seconds the room was full of flying projectiles and leaping, laughing, ducking, dorking human reindeer. This deafening insanity went on for so long I noticed that some of nephew Tyler’s neighbours seemed to be moving out. I’ve never seen so many U-Haul trucks on Christmas Eve.

And when the plastic antlers finally wilted and the reindeer were collectively exhausted, it was time for our slightly quieter Christmas tradition – a “relaxing” game of Bingo. We have a bag full of junk – I mean – wrapped mystery prizes for the winners so of course the stakes are tremendously high.

And if you think a family game of Bingo at Christmas really is a bit of soothing quiet time in the midst of the Christmas chaos, you would be sorely mistaken. In our family, it’s practically a contact sport.

And finally, for those who survived Christmas Bingo we have the yearly piece de resistance: The Saran Wrap Ball! Also known in our wacky family as the Big Prize Ball Thingie, this popular party game is guaranteed to raise the festive energy to the point of spontaneous combustion.

Previously a generous nephew (Tim) had purchased many small fun, frivolous and funky gift items and we “elders” had a group wrapping session, encasing each gift in saran wrap, layer after layer until like a rolling snowball the Clear Sphere was nearly the size of a volleyball and weighed down by more than two dozen securely entombed presents.

When Ball Time comes, a circle of Ballers is formed and the first person begins to unwrap. The next person is frantically rolling dice, and when they get doubles the Ball is passed to them, even if the Unwrapper is one wrap away from a coveted prize. Eventually, when all the prizes are claimed and the injured successfully treated it’s time for a perfect family dinner.

And so, what a gamey Christmas it was – and a welcome change from the depressing isolation of the last couple of years.

So thank goodness for Games of Christmas. And may all of us have a happy Saran Wrap Ball kind of year in 2022!

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. Send him a column idea to harleyhay1@hotmail.com.

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