Why Gambling on New Year’s Eve Is Becoming a Greek Tradition

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Greece is known all around the world for a number of things but one of the lesser known things about the country is that its people almost always play cards on New Year’s Eve. Well, according to the Greek folklore beliefs that date back to ancient eras, the new year will not go well for anyone who does not play cards on the New Year’s Eve. Basically, they believe that if one plays the game and loses, the implication is that the new year will be full of bad luck. On the flipside, if one plays cars and wins, jubilation will reign, at least for a significant portion of the new year.

This Greek tradition is taken so seriously by some Greek citizens that would even allow their young children to play cards with them, or usually, by themselves. Fortunately, there are a few simple gambling games designed specifically for children and this goes a long way in ensuring that things do not get out of hand.

Universal Card Game

According to Gerasimos Rigatos, a folklorist, the word that Greeks use for a deck of cards, “trapoula”, is actually a variation of “trappola” an Italian word that roughly translates to fraud, trap or deceit. Very many Greek homes, both rich and poor, have these decks of card. New Year’s Eve is a transition period and the people of Greece like to welcome the new year with a game of cards, sweets, wine and so on.

As mentioned earlier, the winner of the game of cards will have a year of good fortune but it is not as bad as it may seem for the loser of the game – apparently, even the losers have some grounds for optimism. This is addressed directly by a famous Greek saying: “The one that loses in the games of cards, wins in love.” Keeping this in mind, everyone leaves the gaming table happy once the game comes to an end in the early hours of the New Year’s Day.

The game was, in essence, an opportunity for family and friends to come together and enjoy each other’s company. In fact, the amounts that are wagered during the games are so little and are considered to be symbolic and hardly qualify as real gambling.

A History of State Monopoly

Since the beginning of 1884, the printing of playing cards in the country become the monopoly of the state and therefore only the government was allowed to manufacture and sell playing cards – well, until a few decades ago. The decks of cards were usually heavily taxed and the levy was used to pay back loans after the bankruptcy of the government towards the end of the nineteenth century.


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