Appalachia courting/love Games

Courtship Games – Do Kids Still Play Them?


Courtship games from The Frank C. Brown Collection North Carolina Folklore

A boy and a girl stand at one side of the room. Another boy and girl catch hands and skip around them singing the first verse. The first boy responds with the second. The second couple sings the third and the first boy sings the fourth. At the end he asks “How about Mr. (one of the boys playing the game). The chosen boy comes up and takes the girl, and the singing dialogue is continued until all the girls but one are paired off. Then this last girl and the first boy clasp hands and raise them as in “London Bridge.” The couples dance through singing:

Come under, come under
My honey, my dove, my turtle dove;
Come under, come under
My dear, oh dear.

We’ll take you both our prisoners,
My honey, my love, my turtle dove;
We’ll take you both our prisoners,
My dear, oh dear.

Then hug her tight and kiss her twice,
My honey, my love, my turtle dove;
Then hug her tight and kiss her twice,
My dear, oh dear.

The last couple caught proceeds as directed in the last verse, and “go ahead.” The game goes on until each couple has been caught then the leaders dance under the clasped hands of all the other couples and are captured by the last. Then they too kiss each other and the game ends.


Old Sister Phoebe contributed by Maude Minish Sutton who obtained it from Bob Huskins a banjo picker from Mitchell. c. 1927.

Old Sister Phoebe, how happy are we
As we go ’round and ’round the juniper tree!
We’ll tie our heads up to keep them all warm,
And two or three kisses won’t do us no harm.
Old Sister Phoebe!

Here comes a poor widow a-marching around
And all of my daughters are married but one,
So rise up, my daughter, and kiss your true love.
Old Sister Phoebe!

This kissing game is a favorite among young people in the remote parts of the Blue Ridge. Bob (the informant) was a very picturesque person, and he sang this song to a rollicking, jiggy tune.


Flower in the Garden contributed by Maude Minish Sutton c. 1927. Collected in Big Ivy (Madison County).

There’s a flower in the garden for you, young man;
There’s a flower in the garden for you,
There’s a flower in the garden, pick it if you can;
Be sure not to choose a false-hearted one.

The boy in the center of the circle selects a girl, and those in the ring sing:

You got her at a bargain, my young man;
You got her at a bargain, I tell you,
But you promised for to wed her six months ago;
So we hold you to your bargain, you rascal you.

The couple kiss and the girl remains in the center. The second verse is the same except for a change from man and her to maid and him.


The types of games shared from Brown’s collection were also called play party games. Sadly I’ve never played any of the ones above. I love the one with the line “We’ll tie our heads up to keep them all warm” because it reminds me of Granny 🙂

I was in 8th grade when one of my friends had the first boy/girl birthday party at night that included dancing.

Her mother made fondue, which most of us kids had never seen before. After everyone had tried their hand at fondue, she made us all take off one shoe and place them in a big pile. She made one pile for the boys and one for the girls. She told us to pick a shoe from the opposite sex pile. The shoe we picked = the person we were going to dance with. My friend and I almost died from embarrassment, but the little trick did get us all to dance.

As backward as I was, I never got up the nerve to play spin the bottle. Taking a chance on kissing someone I didn’t like in front of all the other kids wasn’t something I was ever going to do.

Do you remember any courting games from your youth?


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  • Reply
    February 13, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Lord have mercy – just the words in those songs would have brought blushing to my face and I only remember going to one boy/girl party as freshman in high school. I was very uncomfortable and they played spin-the-bottle, and the boy kissed you on the cheek. Never went to another one. I remember being embarrassed when I was in 8th grade having to square dance with a boy. I was way too shy.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 13, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    Nope, never knew about the courtship games but it probably wouldn’t have made any difference if I had. I just not much of game kind of person.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    February 13, 2019 at 11:39 am

    We played that type of game every time we had a boy-girl party when I was growing up. The kiss, however, was only a quick peck on the cheek, never on the lips. Looking back, it was extremely innocent compared to kisses on t.v. today. At the same time there was much blushing and giggling going on with the girls.

  • Reply
    February 13, 2019 at 10:50 am

    Your friends were lucky if “kissin'” was the only thing required in a spin the bottle game. The one time I was at a party when spin the bottle was played, they came up with all sorts of challenges that made me very uncomfortable. Parents of the household and a few other adults were on the patio on the other side of the house drinking; I finally found them and was able to call my parents to come get me. I was never invited to parties by those kids again and I think that was a good thing!!

  • Reply
    February 13, 2019 at 10:35 am

    We never played any of those courtship games. Spin the bottle is the only kissing I remember playing when I was actually too young to in the game.

  • Reply
    February 13, 2019 at 10:28 am

    What happened to all the happy and fun filled ways boy met girl? Mom spoke of all the young girls baking pies/cakes to take to church, and the boys who were sweet on them would put money up for their home cooked fare. She laughed about one disaster. Apparently some of the young girls were not the best cooks. During my growing up there were a lot of marshmallow roasts (cheap) with a huge bonfire and a lot of attendees. Much like you, Tipper, I didn’t care to kiss some strange ole boy when they played spin the bottle. No chaperones back then, and everybody seemed to stay out of trouble. I am still amazed at how kids kind of raised themselves, but there were lots of rules–lots.

  • Reply
    February 13, 2019 at 8:38 am

    Just the two you mentioned – spin the bottle and pick a shoe. I don’t recall ever hearing nor reading the others. We did play London bridge and the farmer takes a wife in elementary school.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 13, 2019 at 8:00 am

    I never did any of the play-party games. Closest I came was square dancing in PE during high school. Even there I embarrassed myself terribly. I do not thrive in crowds, never have.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    February 13, 2019 at 7:29 am

    I don’t remember those games but we square danced every Sat nite and the last dance of the night always ended with a hug and kiss with your partner.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 13, 2019 at 7:19 am

    To your question I will say no. I don’t remember any games like that when I was growing up either. I would have been embsrrassed I know that, lol. But what fun

  • Reply
    February 13, 2019 at 5:38 am

    We never celebrated Birthdays like a lot of Folks did, parties was just not my cup of tea anyway, even after I got older and became a teenager/young adult, I just wasn’t a crowd person, the music was loud, room full of smoke, most time there was folks there you didn’t care about being around, and conveying up with folks just choked me. Dancing was out of the question. Guess it was a good thing I wasn’t born in those days. I took this goofy animal personality test once and I came out porcupine, and it suits me just fine, they don’t covey, they don’t bother no body, the just want to be left alone, but willing to defend if they need to.

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