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.


  1. Image titled Play Oranges and Lemons Step 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.
  2. Image titled Play Oranges and Lemons Step 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.
  3. Image titled Play Oranges and Lemons Step 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.
  4. Image titled Play Oranges and Lemons Step 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.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 teams of children

Sources and Citations

  • Clarence Squareman, (1916), My Book of Indoor Games, public domain resource - this eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at Gutenberg. Original source of article.

Article Info

Categories: Party Games for Kids