Games are a huge part of the English culture. They are an opportunity for families to bond and friends to unite. Whether it’s traditional games that require little physical effort or iconic sports that are played in local communities up and down the country, read on as we give you a taste of what English families do for entertainment in their spare time.
One of the most popular childhood games in England involves using the seeds of horse chestnut trees. These seeds are nicknamed “conkers”. These conkers are threaded onto a piece of string and used in a two-player competition. Players take it in turns to hit their opponent’s conker using their own. The loser is the player whose conker breaks or shatters first. England hosted the inaugural World Conker Championships back in 1965 and today it still attracts hundreds, if not thousands, of spectators.
England has long enjoyed a love affair with card games too. Whist is one such card game that’s inspired by the 16th century game known as “Ruff and Honors”. It is played using a typical 52-card deck between no more than four players. It’s a trick-taking game, with the players that win the most tricks scoring points. This means you are likely to need to know how to say sorry and apologise for being dishonest to your opponents! Cribbage is another traditional English card game, originating in the early 17th century. Six and five-card cribbage is most commonly played, but the latter is the original version that’s still played in some pub leagues across England, as well as South Wales.
Since the legalization of casinos in England in the 20th century, poker has also become a common pastime for many – particularly the American Texas Hold’em version. The popularity of Texas Hold’em has seen the game became not just exclusively popular in the UK and US either. It’s become a major force in Asia too, with even Indian players starting to get access to free tables to get a feel for the action. These tables allow newcomers to poker throughout India to get started using “play money” in both ring game and tournament formats.
English culture has also enjoyed a long-held passion for board games. These turn-based games are the perfect way for families and friends to wile away the hours in the evenings and weekends. England has invented a string of board games that have gone on to become global brands, most notably Cluedo and Guess Who? Contrary to popular belief, the iconic board game of Monopoly did not originate in England and was instead the brainchild of American Elizabeth Magie.
One of the most traditional games played in school playgrounds up and down England is hopscotch. The aim of the game of hopscotch is to throw a small object – often a small beanbag – onto a pattern of numbered triangles or rectangles. Players must hop or jump from space to space to retrieve the object.
Marbles is another centuries-old school game. All that’s needed is a small collection of marbles and a decent amount of outside space. Play continues within a circle roughly three-feet in width. Players select their “shooter” marble – often their biggest marble. They then place their remaining marbles in the circle. Players then take it in turns to flick their shooter marble with their finger to try and knock the others out of their ring. The player to remove all of their marbles from the ring quickest wins the game.
If you were to ask most English citizens what the nation’s number-one sport is, the vast majority will say football. We’re talking “soccer” rather than American football here. Football has been part of the social fabric of English society since the 19th century. The rules for the sport were introduced in 1863, with the first leagues played competitively 26 years later in 1889. Sheffield FC lays claim to being the world’s first football club. Today, England is home to the English Premier League (EPL) which has grown into the world’s biggest professional football league, with the biggest global audience.
The sport of cricket actually pre-dates football. It was played back in the 1500s throughout the south-east of England in the countries of Surrey, Kent and Sussex. However, the spiritual home of cricket in England is at Lord’s, the home of Marylebone Cricket Club. Today, there are 18 professional county cricket teams, 17 of them exist in England and one in Wales.
Get on board with any of the above games or pastimes and you will soon find it easy to immerse yourself in English culture, with societies and organizations established to bring together fans of all the above games for enjoyable social occasions.