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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

SATURDAY DINING OUT

Published April 10, 2013 by Tony

SATURDAY NIGHT IN NAPLES and NEW YORK

Standard of living and lifestyle have influenced and still influence the way how people spend their weekend. If we take as a reference two medium families, one from Naples and another from New York, both formed by working parents, with one or more adult children, probably in a month the Neapolitan parents spend one Saturday or Sunday to dine out, while the New Yorker parents spend three. For New Yorkers the Saturday “evening dining out” was, until recently, an obligation, especially for couples with both engaged in work. Due to the popular demand, in order to go to a restaurant or pizzeria in New York, a Saturday evening reservation even was necessary. Where the New Yorker didn’t go out to dinner, as an alternative there always was a dinner party hosted by some friends at their home or in a pub. A lifestyle difficult to eradicate, even in view of the fact that wives were not inclined to spend weekend at home, between cooking and dishes.
Aside from this substantial cultural difference, there was another of economic nature, because an average Neapolitan family certainly did not have the same economic opportunity of the overseas peers.
Although a normal dinner in a normal restaurant in the Neapolitan hinterland costs less than the one in a similar restaurant in New York, the average Neapolitan family culturally is more “conservative” and traditionalist, with wives, who, although involved in work, have not lost their  “housewives” identity, preferring to stay at home during the weekend.  In Naples, there has never been a “dining party” culture, and instead of Saturday dining out, if anything, the custom of a Sunday lunch away from home has always been more in vogue. But occasionally and not as a weekly habit. The Neapolitan wife has always been very attached to the house and the children and  weekend is just a chance to spend more time at home with family, and attend to all those household chores that she has not been able to do during the week.
Our habits have not changed much over the years. The economic situation has led, if anything, to renounce to some Sunday lunch at the restaurant and be thriftier in foodstuffs purchase.

Americans, instead, after a hard week spent at work, look forward to weekends, planning in advance for them.  For many weekend means going out with friends or relatives, outdoor activities or watching a game in a stadium.
In the past, one of the largest changes in American eating habits was the increasing reliance on food eaten away from home (FAFH). FAFH increased from 33% of total food expenditures in 1970 to 47% by 2003. Most of this is at table service and fast food restaurants.
Much of the growth is attributed to the rising value of household time, especially as induced by more female labor force participation, and rising household incomes.
As a 2009 Zagat Survey showed, eating out was a way of life for many Americans, with 50% of all meals prepared outside the home. In short, restaurants became the family kitchen for the busy two-career families. According to Zagat Survey CEO Tim Zagat, “Americans are still eating out in restaurants, they are just making smarter choices.”

Recently, the economic downturn, occasional jobs and financial turmoil in America have made it difficult for people to find enough money to afford their “dining out” habit.
Lately, Americans are making family dinner more often than dine out, a trend that slowly took root before the recession. Mostly, they’re cooking with and eating a narrow range of foods — and relying, to some extent, on prepared, frozen, and canned items to feed their families quickly and economically. “It’s very boring. That’s the sad truth,” says Harry Balzer, chief food industry analyst for the NPD Group, a national market research company. “For the most part, we’re looking for what’s the eaesiest way out of this, what’s the cheapest way out of this.” Balzer said, the number of restaurant meals an American family eats — dine-in or takeout — has been flat, at just under 200 a year, correlating to plateaus of both women in the workforce and household incomes.

Even the New York Times supported the thesis of the “end of the dinner party” because people do not have more money, time and wish to do so.  Someone else says that beyond the crisis there is a lack of good manners and savoir faire, with people no longer able to have a conversation and that’s why lately “finger food” and “standing up” are preferred to dinner party.

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