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Tombola Game: history and traditions

tombola In Italy tombola is a very common family game played at Christmas, similar to bingo, the English version so popular in the United Kingdom, Ireland and, under many forms, all around the world. In Italy at Christmas Eve playing tombola is a must, with all the relatives united around grandparents and small children shouting when they win a prize (adults usually don't call a prize if there are children around, to let them win).
Modern tombola cards are in plastic and have on the numbers small plastic slots that can be closed down when the number is called, but traditionally they were closed by beans ("fagioli") or by pieces of orange peel, that you had to eat while playing.

How to play

Fix a price for each card (ex. 1 dollar). The players buy the cards, and one of the players buys the "cartellone . The money is divided into five prizes, from lowest to highest, with tombola being the jackpot:
  • the "ambo", two numbers on the same row
  • the "terno", three numbers on the same row
  • the "quaterna", four numbers on the same row
  • the "cinquina", five numbers on the same row
  • the "tombola", all numbers on the card
Then the one who has the cartellone takes the numbers out of the sack, one at a time, calling them loudly, and placing them on their box in the cartellone, and leaving time to the players to mark the number on their card.

What you need to play

  • a tabellone with squares containing all numbers from 1 to 90;
  • numbered cards, each one containing blank squares and 15 squares containing random numbers, arranged in tree rows, each containing five numbers; this cards are bought by the players
  • 90 wooden or plastic"tombolini" with numbers from 1 to 90, which are kept in a container (usually a cloth sack).

The Smorfia

For more color in the game, each number has also a nickname, either local or from the "Smorfia" napoletana"; see below the common expressions.
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1 Il maschio
2 L'amore
3 Il malanno
4 Il piacere
5 La mano
6 Lo specchio
7 Le corna
8 Il petto delle donne
9 La rabbia
10 Il cannone
11 Gli imbrogli
12 I soldati
13 Il bellimbusto
14 I cornuti
15 Fidarsi
16 L'asino
17 La disgrazia
18 La tradizione
19 Arrossire
20 Le feste
21 La donna
22 Il parroco
23 La suocera
24 Gli occhi
25 Il natale
26 I maccheroni
27 Il carceriere
28 Il matrimonio
29 Le castagne
30 Lo sciocco
31 La scopa
32 La gelosia
33 Gli anni di Cristo
34 L'adulterio
35 La gobba
36 La testa
37 Il frate
38 La folla
39 La smorfia
40 La pelle
41 Buffone
42 I pidocchi
43 La gioia
44 l'inganno
45 I pazzi
46 La serenata
47 Il morto che parla
48 La castità
49 Lo sforzo
50 Il pane
52 La gabbia
52 I muscoli
53 L'acquavite
54 Le bastonate
55 La salute
56 La caduta
57 I vizi
58 La calunnia
59 La casa
60 La lite
61 Il ghiottone
62 I complimenti
63 La carovana
64 Le toppe
65 La pancia
66 Il successo
67 La pettegola
68 La minestra
69 L'elemosina
70 La sorpresa
71 La novità
72 La virilità
73 Il cappone
74 Il vagabondo
75 Il tempo bello
76 La chiave
77 Le gambe
78 L'ubriaco
79 Le frittelle
80 La bocca
81 Il bordello
82 L'onore
83 La coscienza
84 La chiesa
85 L'anima
86 Lo spiantato
87 Il palato
88 Trafficare
89 L'invidia
90 La paura