Tag Archives: Folk Games

Notch. The game with consequences

Abstract: The game is one where caution is always good when around people who know how to play. The game involves a group of people with no limit and all it takes if for someone to speak in absolutes meaning if someone says they’ll do something such as I want to eat this bowl of rice right now, someone int he group must say notch and the person who made the claim must eat the bowl of rice of shave off part of their eye. The possibilities for this game extend to many phrases both good and bad. 

Background: JL is an amateur gamer with a plethora of experience in the gaming community. He’s 20 and lives in Florida with one of his favorite pastimes is joining up with his friends and talking about some experiences he’s had when talking with his friends on different programs. One encounter he tested the game I’d shown him from USC which takes the name notch. This game essentially dares a person to perform the task they said they would or shave off a part of their eyebrow. The talk is described below. 

The game in action. 

JL: Alright dude lets keep playing this game. Dude if we keep up this losing streak then I’m going to dunk myself in my bathtub. 

Person 1: Notch!

JL: o my God no way dude. I don’t want to shave my eyebrow crap. Ok fine give me a few minutes. 

*After 15 minutes of waiting JL shared a video of himself dunking his head in the tub and shared it with all of us. At this point his eyebrows were spared.*


This game is very satisfying as long as your not the one being called on. The main part of this game is the humiliation aspect since all of those in our close group have an implicit vow to be playing the game as long as we’re together. Especially when everyone we know that knows the game is together. JL pointed out that he noticed people weren’t making many phrases or saying tasks that could be used against them. He said maybe soon we should put the game on pause so we can all continue to enjoy talking more again without the fear of the game looming over our heads.

Afikoman: Jewish Holiday Folk Game

Context: AW sits with her daughter preparing for the second night of her Passover Seder, the room is bustling with activity as people get food prepared for AW’s many relatives. AW’s Daughter chimes in every so often to ask questions
MW: So what do you know about the Afikoman?
AW: The Matzah, the bread we eat during Passover, because it represents the fact that when the jews had to flee Egypt and slavery. They left in such haste that the bread did not have a chance to rise, that’s why we have matzah.
AW: So, we eat the matzah all week so that we remember what happened to us, and during the seder…the person that leads the seder
[AW flips through her Passover Haggadah]
AW: explains to everyone…REMINDS not explains, what the bread means to us as a people
AW: they break it in half, one half to be eaten, and the other to be set aside for later. Traditionally that half is hidden by the oldest person at the seder for the children to find after the festival meal.

MW: Do you have any, like, special house rules?
AW: So we make rules, first the Afikoman has to be hidden in the house. Depending on the age of the children, if they’re very young it has to be in one specific room in the house to make it easier for them to find it. If they’re older it’s anywhere downstairs. It’s usually hidden by the person who led the seder.

MW: Ok
AW: Someone says “on your mark get set, go” and the kids race to find it, if there are young kids we hide it again so all the kids get a chance to find it.

MW: So what does the Afikoman mean to you?
AW: It’s just part of the festival, it’s nice, you know what it’s nice because I remember the nights where we were all to grown up to do it. So it’s comforting to see the next generation carrying on our traditions.

The Afikoman is wrapped which serves the practical purpose of keeping it, a dessert item, separated from the rest of the food. But the wrapping also serves a symbolic role as mimicking the way Ancient Jews would have wrapped their matzah as they fled Egypt. This mimicking is key to the overarching theme of Passover, that all Jews see themselves as having been liberated from Egypt, not just their ancestors. So in repeating the wrapping behavior modern Jews inhabit the role of their ancestors. The Talmud, a commentary on the Torah states that “We snatch matzahs on the night of Passover in order that the children should not fall asleep.” Thus, Afikomen hunting becomes a way to engage children with short attention spans during what is a fairly long religious event.
Likewise, the matzah is split in half during the seder. This might represent the delayed nature of Jewish salvation, the matzah eaten during the Seder representing the exodus itself, while the Afikomen matzah, hidden away and eaten only after the Seder ends, represents either the Mosciach, or Messiah’s final redemption of the Jewish people, or perhaps their eventual return to their homeland Israel after 40 years in the desert. For alternate uses of the Afikoman in Jewish households as a pendant for blessing see What Makes a Jewish Home Jewish

Ochs, Vennessa. “What Makes A Jewish Home Jewish?” What Makes a Jewish Home Jewish?, an Article by Vanessa Ochs, in Cross Currents, the Quarterly Journal of Opinion Covering Religion and the World., www.crosscurrents.org/ochsv.htm.