postheadericon How to Play Oranges and Lemons

Oranges and Lemons,

Say the bells of St. Clement’s;
You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin’s;
When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.
When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.
When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney,
I do not know,
Says the Great bell of Bow.
Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head! Chip chop chip chop the last man’s dead!

This article provides the traditional instructions for playing a traditional children’s game. Try it for a party game for younger children as a reminder of games of yesteryear.

How to Play Oranges and Lemons

1 Have two of the players join hands, facing each other. They need to have agreed privately which is to be “Oranges” and which “Lemons.” The rest of the party forms a long line, standing one behind the other, and holding each other’s dresses or coats. The first two raise their hands so as to form an arch, and the rest run through it, singing the rhyme set out above as they run.

How to Play Oranges and Lemons

2 Grab the player passing through. At the word “head” the hand archway descends, and clasps the player passing through at that moment; he/she is then asked in a whisper, “Oranges or Lemons?” and if he/she chooses “oranges,” he/she is told to go behind the player who has agreed to be “oranges” and clasp him/her round the waist.

How to Play Oranges and Lemons

3 Keep it quiet. The players must be careful to speak in a whisper, so that the others do not know what has been said.

How to Play Oranges and Lemons

4 Continue. The game then goes on again, in the same way, until all the children have been caught and have chosen which they will be, “oranges” or “lemons.” When this happens, the two sides prepare for a tug-of-war. Each child clasps the one in front of him/her tightly and the two leaders pull with all their might, until one side has drawn the other across a line which has been drawn between them.

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