Table games at Christmas, Italians’ traditions

Christmas table games

The Christmas period represents the biggest festive occasion of the year, during which a warm atmosphere made of family, tables laden with food, inside jokes and gifts is also enriched with traditional entertainment. It is around the table, in fact, that Italians gather and indulge in spending some relaxed and quiet time, enjoying some of the most loved Christmas table games. Every family has their traditions and habits, but usually, table games are quite popular all over the country, with some more regional versions. 

Giochi da tavolo per divertirsi a Natale con gli amici

Tombola (Raffle)

It is the Christmas game par excellence. The raffle, in fact, puts Italians of all ages all around a table, impatiently waiting for those numbers that drawn from a small basket could allow them to win the prizes for the combination of two, three, four, five and then finally of all the numbers contained in one raffle card. 

The game of the raffle has its roots in the Naples of the 18th century where it became quite popular essentially as an alternative to the famous game of Lotto, with the special characteristic that it associates to each of the 90 numbers just as many meanings. In the first half of the 18th century, in fact, as a solution to the attempt by the authorities to control or even prohibit the game of Lotto, an alternative was found starting from the custom of practicing it at home during the holidays. 

So, that of the raffle became a customary habit for the city of Naples, spreading then throughout Italy. Today like then you play choosing three raffle cards and waiting for the numbers to be drawn, one after the other, which are collected on a dedicated board, waiting for the numbers to come up in order to get the combinations that correspond to the different prizes. 

The game becomes as addictive as fun when, as the pure Naples tradition wants it, you follow the custom to associate to every number draw the respective meaning on the Napolitan Smorfia. So, for example, if the number 1 comes up you shout “Italy”, if the number 77 is drawn “Womens legs”, if the number 90 comes out “Fear”! It is then even more suggestive when to mark the numbers that have come out on the cards you use beans, small pasta or dried fruit. 

La tommolettà de Natà | Cronache Maceratesi

Il Mercante in fiera

Here it is another game, this time involving cards, particularly loves and popular all over the country. You play with two decks of cards specific to play the game Mercante in Fiera, and the more the players the merrier the game. The goal is to end up with only one card in your hand, and for it to be the same as one of the three cards set on the table at the beginning of the game, each one associated with a specific prize. To rule the game is the banditore, who not only shuffles and deals the card, but also moderates all sales operations of the cards themselves, which allow better chances of success. 

La soffitta di laa laa e po: Speciale per Natale - il Mercante in fiera

Sette e mezzo (Seven and a half)

There are several traditional card games all over Italy, but some are particularly popular. Among these there is certainly Sette e mezzo, a game that employs Napolitan cards the goal of which is to obtain the score of  7 and  ½ or at least to get as close to this value, going over the score obtained by the dealer, who faces one player at the time. If you go over 7 and  ½ you lose. Every player, in turn, sees the card that they have been dealt putting on the table the amount of money they wish to play for, deciding then how many more cards to ask for or whether to “stay”. Should the dealer exceed, going over the maximum amount reached, they are to pay the wager of each player. The cards from ace to 7 are worth as many points as their numerical value, the figures are worth half a point, whilst the king of diamonds is like a jolly as it can take on any value that the player that has it wishes to give to it.  



Tressette too is the traditional card game that has two couples of players playing. You use a deck of Napolitan cards. Every player has 10 cards and the game proceeds by putting a card on the table, with the other players that have to respond with the same suit as the one put down by the first player, should the player not have it they can use another suit. Wins the player who puts on the table the card with the same suit as the first one but higher in value. The player that wins the round is the first of the next round. Wins the couple that obtained the set score that can go from 21 to 41 points. The cards have a descending value: 3, 2, Ace, King, Horse, Jack, 7 and 4. 

Among the traditional card games, there are also Briscola, Scopa, Ruba mazzetto and Assassino, which feature small prizes and the use of Napolitan cards. 

Come si gioca a Tressette: regole e punteggi da conoscere - Gioco Digitale  Blog


The Sinco is a relatively recent game, in fact it was invented in the 80s by Napolitan Emilio Salavtore, who called it so due to the Spanish pronunciation of the number five and is popular locally. You play in 10 people maximum, using a deck of Napolitan cards. Each player chooses a card where 25 cards are pictured, and the dealer collects the money to play, dividing it in the different prize containers, which are five: Centro, Sinco, Angolo, rombo e poker. Then the cards are uncovered one after the other, and the player cover with a fiche on the card each card that is called up, very similar to the game of raffle.

Sinco, il gioco di Natale inventato a Napoli più di 35 anni fa

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