Old and Modern Russian Games: How to Choose a Lead

The lead for games was selected using counting rhymes or by drawing straws.  

Counting Rhymes

Counting rhymes are short poems that are pronounced with the accent on every word. For each word the finger of the person reading it moves from one person to another.

For example, here is a “sweet” counting rhyme:

The moon came out of the fog.

I took out a knife from my pocket.

I will cut, I will beat!

Anyway you have to lead!

Drawing

Traditional tossing of a coin – heads or tails – did not work with kids: most of the time they didn’t have money or the number of participants was more than two.

• Pulling a Straw

So, they tore up grass or straws of different lengths. For example, one was long, while the others were all short. Somebody pinched the straws in his fist, and the others pulled them out. Whoever pulled the long straw had to be the lead.

• Rock, Paper, Scissors!

Rock, Paper, Scissors!

This is the most common way to determine the lead in the game, and also to resolve any disputes – why argue and waste time when “rock-paper-scissors” will help.

Children clutched their fists or one fist and shook them against each other while saying: “Rock, Paper, Scissors  – One, Two, Three!” They shook in order to confuse the opponent of your intentions.

On the word “Three!” Each player had to portray with his hand either scissors (by showing two fingers), a rock (by continuing to hold a fist) or paper (by opening a palm).

Rock – dulls scissors, but you can wrap it with paper.

Scissors – can cut paper, but are dulled by rock.

Paper – wraps rock, but can be cut by scissors.

When playing this draw game excited children symbolically cut paper, wrapped rock and so on. If the images of rock, scissors or paper coincided, everything was repeated again.

There were other ways too. For example, in the game “stick-cans” the order of play was determined by how far the players could throw their sticks: whoever threw further out was the first one to start, and so on. Plus, the sticks were not thrown by hand, but they were placed on the tip of the shoe and by a swinging motion were sent flying.

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To discover Russia with Alexey Gureev

фото-фотобанк Лори

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