The holiday season has come and gone, and the end of the year is in sight. You know what you need to do now? That’s right, you need to sit back and play out a few rounds of solitaire, or maybe get the family together for a night of Texas Hold’em, Slap Jack, or War. Whatever your pleasure, National Card Playing Day is a chance to wind down from all the kerfluffle of the season by engaging in a card game or three.
History of National Card Playing Day
Playing cards are thought to have first been introduced to the world in China before spreading across the globe to India, Persia, and ultimately every corner of this… sphere. Ok, so that corner thing never has made sense, unless you’re talking about a rectangular playing card, which thankfully we are! A whole pack of them in fact.
Cards arrived in Europe some time towards the end of the fourteenth century, making their appearance known in major cities, like Florence and Paris. The cards, however, didn’t resemble the decks we know and love today. They were still very much a work in progress, with artisan card makers still trying to figure out the best designs and deck configurations. Most of their creations revolved around the original playing coins, cups, and sticks – gaming apparatus of choice for much of the early middle-ages.
Card playing continued to develop as a discipline. By the middle of the fifteenth century, it started to turn into something that we would recognize now. Between 1418 and 1450, card makers in Augsburg, Nuremberg, and Ulm began making printed decks, allowing people to purchase packs of cards for the first time.
As manufacturers put the printing press to use, the popularity of cards grew even more, and their designs became increasingly complicated. They began printing cards with interesting symbols like hearts, acorns, bells, and shields. In France, card makers introduced clovers, pikes, and tiles. And by the time they reached England, the traditional suits of clubs and spaders were born, probably derived from the French clovers and pikes.
Playing cards hit the big time in 1628 with the founding of the Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards. The organization, set up via a royal Charter, represented people throughout the industry. It was considered so important that even the king was involved!
Card markers continued to refine their craft and make it as user-friendly as possible. In the eighteenth century, they began rounding the corners of cards and adding printed edges, indicating the card type and value. Players could then hold a fan on cards in one hand, viewing the current position without using the other hand – which might be holding their drink!
Ultimately, playing cards became a pop culture staple. Estimates from Columbia University suggest that there are at least 6,000 different types of historical deck with provenance from over fifty countries, though there are likely more. What’s more, many of these use completely different deck systems from the basic hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades.
Playing cards have always been the last bastion of entertainment in inclement weather, and thus were a favorite of the winter holidays. After all, before the invention of television and electricity, what was one to do when you’d heard all of Uncle Joe’s story, and couldn’t possibly bring yourself to lay your eyes on another dog-eared novel?
That’s right, you play cards! There are numerous games that exist in the world, hundreds from every culture imaginable. Some games are unique to a particular region, or at least distinct to it (Like Baccarat) or can be found in variations all over the world while clearly being recognizable (like poker). Others still involve the use of playing boards as a utility in keeping track of points, such as cribbage.
National Card Playing Day is an opportunity and excuse to return to this age old form of entertainment, and to spend a little time alone, or connecting with your family.
How to celebrate National Card Playing Day
Well, the simplest way to celebrate National Card Playing Day is, of course, to participate in the aforementioned past-time! However, if you’re really looking to make an experience out of National Card Playing Day, you may consider trying to learn a variation of a game you already know, or even learning a completely new card game altogether.
There are countless games out there you can learn, and if the game you know has lost its appeal, it’s time to learn another one! We also suggest getting out there and investing in a new deck of cards, there are limitless variations on style and theme, and a new deck can make a new game even more fun!
When you buy a new deck, try to go for one of the traditional varieties that didn’t use the conventional hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades setup. Granted, these are rare, but they do exist.
Furthermore, you could leave the traditional playing card scene behind and celebrate the day by choosing a different type of card game. You’re spoiled for choice. Options like Magic: The Gathering, introduce you to a whole new world of playing cards with more customization and strategy. Here, you can use spells and monsters to vanquish your enemies, trying to overcome them through pure guile.
Card games have also moved online. You can play traditional games like poker and backgammon against anyone in the world. And you can indulge in digital card games, all backed by some of the largest developers in the gaming industry. The opportunities for fun are almost endless!