Colonial folks worked hard, but got plenty of opportunity to relax and participate in recreational activities. Not only was recreation an outlet for unwinding after a long day's work, but also the opportunity to socialize with friends, and maybe even to meet a special person to marry. Recreation in colonial times was not all that different from what adults like to do today, but definitely on a much lower key, as far as gambling goes. Even colonial men and women needed a way to entertain themselves.
Recreation in colonial times consisted of many of the factors that make it what it is today. Considered to be leisure activities, the people of colonial times had both individual and team sports, board games, gambling, card games, and so much more. Whatever was fun at the time was what the people did. Recreation then was considered to be entertainment, and to take them away from the hard work that they did all day long. The ability to unwind and enjoy some of life's pleasures made it easier for folks to get along, and really get to develop friendships with those in the same area.
The one difference in recreation in colonial times as compared to today was that it was mostly for men. Women did have a few opportunities to participate, but for the most part, it was the men who got to have fun while the women either worked or tended to the children. This was also due to the fact that many of these events took place in clubs, bars or taverns in which women were most certainly not allowed. When women did get to participate in such things like card games, it was done in a private home where the involvement consisted of meeting people of the opposite sex in a controlled environment.
Recreation for men involved many of the spectator sports of the time such as baiting, boxing, and cockfighting. Dangerous games were also a huge part of the times, such as knife and tomahawk throwing, running, and shooting. One activity that both men and women could be involved in, and which was extremely popular as a form of recreation, was drinking and gambling. But people of colonial times were also interested in healthy activities as well, such as walking, swimming, and horse racing. In fact, outdoor activities were considered something that had to be done both for the adults and the children. As there was no Internet, video games, or anything that could keep them in the house, much of the day was spent simply playing outside.
Card games hit a new resurgence in the colonial times as well. The three most popular games that people played when they wanted to unwind were Piquet, Euchre, and Whist, which is similar to what we now know as Bridge. Both Piquet and Euchre were introduced by the French and brought over to early colonial times where it was picked up immediately. Going back to the extremely popular activity of gambling, card games were often times to get together and bet on things like who would win the game, who would roll the highest score when playing dice, and who would win the board game.
There are some subtle differences in the recreation of colonial times and recreation of our modern days. First and foremost, people did not compete necessarily as we do now. It was all done for fun and to escape the day to day drudgeries of cleaning, cooking, and farming. Recreation was not done to stay healthy or to stay thin. It was done purely for enjoyment. The social aspects of recreation were much more important than what you were actually doing. Whether they got together for a drink or a weekly Euchre game, it was about enjoying the time spent together as friends or family, which is what recreation really meant to colonial folks.