Rucheyok – “a small creek”

A type of a khorovod game, rucheyok is something like a very innocent matchmaking ritual. To play, you need at least several couples standing in two rows and holding each other’s hands above their heads, forming a tunnel of sorts. Then the player who remained single goes through this tunnel, chooses a partner, grabs them by the hand, and forms a new couple, joining others. The player whose partner was taken does the same, and so on. It may not sound like much, but is pretty fun in action.

Ladushki – possibly from “lada” (a loved one)

There are two types of ladushki. The first one includes a song and works best for babies. The song starts like this:

Ладушки, ладушки,

Ladushki, ladushki,

Где были?

Where have you been?

– У бабушки.

– At grandmother’s.

– Что ели?

What have you eaten?

– Кашку.

– Porridge.

– Что пили?

What have you drank?

– Бражку.

– Homebrew.

As the lines are sung, an older person moves their and their baby’s hands in time with the melody and mimes what’s happening in the song (by clapping hands, rubbing the belly, etc.). Pretty simple, but researchers like Ilya Frank suggest that the game originally was about a funeral feast: hands put together symbolize the connection between this and the other world, plus porridge and homebrew are traditional products to consume at a wake. So, the grandmother in question might actually be dead. 

To forget about such ominous – and only hypothetical – interpretations, you can also play ladushki without singing at all. For that, you need a second player. Start by clapping each other’s hands in three ways (clapping both hands – clapping your right hands – clapping your left hands; repeat) slowly and gain speed with each turn. Whoever loses the rhythm first or claps the wrong hand, loses.

Chai-chai, help me out!

A kind of a tag game, chai-chai, vyruchai (it’s not clear what chai-chai means – probably nothing; vyruchai means help me out) requires some empathy. By touching a player, the tagger (sometimes also called koldun – a wizard) freezes them. They can’t move, but can cry for help by saying “chai-chai, vyruchai!”, and other players come to rescue and unfreeze them, all while making sure koldun doesn’t enchant them too in the process.

Karavai – “a round bread”

This game is usually played on birthdays. The birthday boy or girl stands in the middle of a circle formed by other kids, and they start dancing and singing a song about a huge karavai bread they baked for the special occasion. The song ends with “choose whoever you love!”, and the person in the middle must say “Surely, I love you all, but I love *name of choice* most!” The named person leaves the circle to stand in its middle, and the game might go on in this manner until all the participants have been chosen.

To learn more about Russian culture in a fun way, check out our recent story on Soviet cartoon characters that became memes.