Monday, 19 December 2011


Christmas time is "tombola-time" here in Italy.  In Norwegian - and if I'm not mistaken, also in English - tombola means "raffle" (lottery). However, in Italy the tombola is something different. It's a gamle that resembles bingo that many Italians (mostly from the south) are playing at Christmas gatherings. 

Here you can see a traditional tombola from Naples
 This picture is taken from Wikipedia
To play the game you must buy as many of the tombola boards as you want to. In my (Italian) family the price is 1 euro per board and the money is placed in a prize pool. It's not mandatory to play for money, but the Italians think it's more fun. A person (croupier) draw and call all the numbers. This person has a board with all the numbers from 1-90 in front of him and a container which he draws the numbers from. Unlike bingo (I think) you get a prize when you have two, three, four and five numbers in a row. For the tombola, however, you have to cover the whole board to win.

Since these boards are used over and over again, one cannot use a pen to cross out the numbers, so here in Italy we use dried beans, chick peas, or dried pasta to put on top of the right number. This means you need to be careful because if the "markers" move away from the right numbers you can miss out on a prize.

Of course, what happens is that some of the players cough, sneeze or "accidently" kick the table so that the pasta and the boards are flying in all directions and all the numbers have to be called again. And the players spend the next 10 minutes or so shouting Has number 25 been called? What about 89? And then they carry on playing for a while until the next "accidental" kick.


In Naples (where the game originated in 1734) they've put an extra "touch" to the game. It's called "la smorfia", which means they add a symbol to the numbers. So number 4 is paired with 'O puorco which in Italian means il maiale (pig). Number 25 = Natale (Christmas) and number 1 = Italia.  If you understand Italian you can click here to read more about "la smorfia".

My in-laws are from the Apulian region so they have for years used this dialect to call the numbers and in recent years they've taken great pleasure in teaching me the symbols in the Apulian dialect. So one person is calling the numbers and then they're all waiting for me to add the lu puorc ' and everybody is cheering and applauding when I manage to pronounce it the right way.

I have to admit that when I first was introduced to this game I thought it to be rather boring, but I've discovered that the important thing isn't so much the game itself, but everything that surrounds it; the fun we're having with "Lu puorc "; the excitement about who will be the first getting two numbers in a row and the friendly arguments when someone has kicked the table and caused total chaos etc etc. And this (along with some other things) has thus become a part of what I need to get into the right Christmas spirit.

And while writing this I've discovered that I need to work on my Lu puorc' so that I don't spoil the fun for the rest of the family.....



theromanticrose said...

Carissima,io ho tanti ricordi legati alla tombola!Da bambina amavo questo gioco.Noi sulle cartelle mettevamo anche le bucce dei mandarini enella stanza era tutto un profumo,ogni tanto si mangiava qualche dolcetto e si stava tutti in famiglia!Baci,Rosetta

A Foreigner in Italy said...

Ciao cara, che bel ricordo! Immagino che riesci ancora sentire il profumo dei mandarini della tombola.... Baci!

marits provence said...

Spennende å lese om italiensk tombola! Kjenner ikke igjen dette fra Frankrike.
Ønsker deg en riktig god jul!
Juleklem fra Marit

A Foreigner in Italy said...

Det virker som tombola er veldig italiensk og at det ikke har spredd seg utover landets grenser. Jeg hadde aldri hørt om det før jeg flyttet hit ned.

Ha en flott jul du også!

New Life in Spain said...

Høres gøy ut, synes jeg! :-)

A Foreigner in Italy said...

Det er faktisk ganske gøy. Ihvertfall når man vinner!!

Jorunns hobbyblogg said...

Ønsker deg en strålende julefeiring!

God Jul fra Jorunn

A Foreigner in Italy said...

Takk for det. God jul til deg også!

Anonymous said...

Carissima LINDA,
Giocare a tombola è bellissimo quando si è in tanti,allora ci si diverte veramente e si scherza

A Foreigner in Italy said...

Ciao bellissima e buon natale anche a te. Mi sono già divertita un sacco.... E ho vinto a tombola!

Post a comment