NEAPOLITAN CHRISTMAS GAME

Published December 16, 2013 by Tony

THE TOMBOLA

Let’s put aside Baseball or Playstation and take the opportunity that relatives and friends are at home to play all together with a board game.

The board  games are a phenomenon quite common in Western countries as a moment of aggregation, although their importance in social life also depends on national traditions. In Germany and the German-speaking countries, for example, the culture of the table game is much more widespread than in Italy. This kind of games is important as entertainment for family, especially for those suitable for all ages.
Christmas, being a celebration that usually unites the whole family, also becomes an opportunity to play together, a way to spend a happy afternoon or evening with a board game.

And in Naples, the oldest and widespread game played during the holiday season is the ” TOMBOLA“.
It is a traditional board game just created in Naples in the eighteenth century. A home game as an alternative to the game of the LOTTO (lot), and often accompanied by a system of association between numbers and their meanings, usually humorous, deriving from “The SMORFIA“.
The Smorfia is like the dream book, used to obtain the corresponding numbers from the various dreams to play the “Lotto”, along the lines of the Jewish Kabbalistic tradition (Kabbalah). For the Smorfia, a word, an event, a person, or an object, is transformed into one or more numbers, even through a fairly accurate coding that provides a different number depending on the context. For example, the verb (action) “to play” is represented by the number 79, but it changes if you meant to play football (50), cards (17), chess (22), and so on. For The Smorfia, the number 1 represents “Italy”, while the last number, 90, represents the “fear”, as well as the number five the “hands” and 18 the “blood”.

smorfia

For the uninitiated, the Lotto is a gambling game (like lottery), the most popular game in Italy managed by the State. The word “lotto” is derived from the French ” lot ,” which means both ” portion” and “fate.” The term, arrived in the Iberian Peninsula, is documented as “lote” in Spanish and “loto” in Portuguese. The French verb “lotir ” also means “to divide the lot” or “assign the lot”. But similar term can be found in the old English “hlot” (“a thing allotted”), which correspond to “Los” in modern German.

The game consists of three weekly draws, conducted in eleven cities called “ruote” (wheels), in which are drawn 5 numbers between 1 and 90 without replacement, meaning that a number once selected is not put back in the urn. The game is to bet on one or more numbers (double, triplet, quadruplet, quintet), in the hope that they are selected in the “wheels” you had gambled. In fact, you can bet in a single wheel, multi-wheel or all-wheel.
Neapolitans are very superstitious and often bet the numbers (arising from Smorfia) corresponding to particular events or situations, or resulting from some dream. Even the numbers that are part of a just bought car’s license plate, are among those that a Neapolitan can play to The Lotto.

Lotto: extracted numbers

According to tradition, the Tombola game would be created in 1734 by a discussion between King Charles of Bourbon and father Gregorio Maria Rocco about the lottery. The first wanted it under public control, as the second considered it immoral on religious grounds. The compromise was found by banning the game during the holiday season, during which families organized themselves with a home version of the game, which soon became a custom in those days of the year.

Basically the game of Bingo is similar to Tombola, in which participants are required to pay a sum of money which is then redistributed as prizes to the winners.
The players have one or more rectangular “cards” previously “bought”, consisting of 3 lines, each with five numbers, from 1 to 90, printed on. Each time one number is drawn and it is present on one or more of the player’s cards, the player gotta cover it. In the traditional version of Tombola, the cards are simple paper cards and the numbers are can be covered with beans, chickpeas, lentils, pasta, or other materials available after the Christmas dinners, like hazelnuts’ shells. The Tombola’s cards are made in groups of six, so that in each group the numbers from 1 to 90 are present once only. A collecting box is part of the game, typically a small cone-shaped basket, filled with 90 numbers of wood. In turn, each player draws, at random, one number a time from the container, and go on until one of the players has covered all the numbers marked on one of his card. In such cases it is said that he made “Tombola”, and is the winner. Once put back in place the numbers and emptied the cards, the game resumes and another player can extract the numbers from the bowl. Depending on the amount of the prize money, players can decide to put at stake the double, the triplet, the quadruplet and the quintet, although it is the one who gets tombola to earn the top prize.

Tombola

Since Neapolitan tombola is normally played in a familiar context (as mentioned it is the traditional Christmas game), the amounts committed and won are usually small, and often have a purely symbolic value (you can “buy” three folders for 1 euro, for example). I like to buy 6 cards and to tell the truth, I’m not very lucky in this game, and although I only pay 2 Euros per session, after a couple of hours I could lose 15-20 euro! But as we say, more to comfort than anything else, “unlucky in the game, lucky in love”?
As mentioned, it is mainly a way to get together and have fun, which children may also take part, who know the numbers, at least from 1 to 90!

tombola

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