Tag: A Brief International History

In my last post about tag variations, I came across a version of tag called French tag, and I’m still trying to figure out why it’s called French tag. In the course of my research though, I’ve found some very interesting information about this history of tag and its historical roots.

Because it’s such a simple game, it has variations played all over the world. In Romania, it’s called “leapsa” and in Greece it’s called “kynigito.” What I find particularly fascinating are the different historical and cultural reasons for the variations.

In a lot of countries, the implication is that person who is “it” has some sort of disease and can pass it on to the other players through their touch. Most of these stem from the diseases prevalent in the middle Ages. For example, the most morbid is the plague in Italy. However, the morbidity prize should probably go the children of Madagascar, where the disease is leprosy. In a traditional Spanish version, it’s just fleas. This really underscores the significance of diseases in medieval culture.

There are a lot of variations to tag in every culture, and most of the variations offer some sort of “safe” haven. These too, have some cultural significance. In the games mentioned above in which the person who is “it” has a disease, the “safe” variation offers some sort of immunity from the disease. Many of these immunities were based what people believed at the time would bring immunity, such as touching materials made of a certain substance. Common variations of “safes” include touching wood or iron.

This is a great way for a teacher or parent, like me, who’s always looking for a place to inject a history lesson. Any elementary or middle school teacher who’s trying to teach about the middle Ages could turn this into a great active participation lesson.

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