The music rings in my ears, as a ring passes through my fingers. The Swedish Ring Game, a Thanksgiving family tradition, is better than the apple and pecan pies for dessert. When I was a little girl, my Mother would tie the turkey's legs together with 3 inches of string to keep the stuffing inside. After dinner, more string was needed for the Ring Game. My Dad would slowly count the seated adult family members; then quickly add up all the energetic moving youngsters. Gauging the amount of string needed for thirty-five people was an art.
Then my Dad would take his smooth wedding band off his finger and place it on the string. As he tied a knot, squeals of joy and excitement filled the air as the children anticipated the ensuing fun. Chairs were rearranged to flank the sofa and create a circle. The middle of the circle was free from any furniture.
Whichever child got to Dad first was now waiting in the center of the circle. As the family members gathered and sat down, they grabbed a hold of the string and placed it between both hands. The child in the middle, the guesser, sat down as well and closed her eyes. Then the singing and the passing of the ring would begin.
Here is a recent video of family playing and the Swedish and English versions of the RING GAME song.
Den-a ringen den skall vandra
Fron den ana til den andra
Lot den go -- lot den go,
Lot den aldrie still a sto.
The ring it shall wander
From one to the other
Let it go -- let it go,
Let it never stand still.
Like other oral traditions, the words pass down from one generation to another. However, we did not speak Swedish in our home; hence, no one has a clue what the real words are supposed to be. As children playfully speak pig Latin, a made-up English language, so too does everyone sing his or her own version of the song. For me, I tend to intersperse English with my pig-Swedish. Here is my interpretation of the song. There's a ring and let's go vonda from inna til and unda, lotten go lotten go, lotten on is stillus go.
As I get older, I love when first time boyfriends and girlfriends join us. No one explains what is happening, what to do, let alone what the spoken words are. The first time my future son-in-law attended our Thanksgiving celebration, I smiled encouragingly at him hoping to quell that look of impending doom.
As the singing progresses, so too does the ring. If you are an adult, both hands glide along the string, moving side to side. If the ring comes to you, you first hide it in the palm of your hand. Transferring the ring to the other hand, you quickly pass it on to your seated neighbor.
When someone says, "we're ready" the adventure begins. The guesser opens her eyes, stands and orientates herself to the room. As she walks around the inner circle, she points at the person she thinks has the ring. That person lifts his hands off the string, showing the guesser what is underneath. If indeed they have the ring, the ring culprit goes into the middle and the game starts over. If not, the guesser continues to seek out the ring bearer.
Assuming your goal is to stay in your own chair, you need to maintain a good poker face. Then wait until the guesser has her back to you before you secretly pass the ring along. If you have a sporty attitude, you may want to see your neighbor in the middle. In this instance, wait until the guesser is just about to look at you, lift the string high in the air. As the ring hits your neighbor's closed hand, the guesser points to him and reluctantly he moves into the middle.
As with any family, the tricky part comes in when a family member is less adept as a player or a guesser. For example, when a two-year-old wants to play, they sit on a parent's lap. Because the child is intrigued with the string, they hold onto it making the ring impossible to pass by them. This means the ring needs to go back in the same direction it came from. Typically, this commotion increases the guesser's chances of finding the ring. If you do not want to be caught, avoid sitting next to children under the age of three.
As the guesser, you may not care how long it takes to find the ring because your aim is for a comfortable chair. In that case, you focus only on those individuals with plush seating arrangements.
Like families, businesses also have traditions. One of my Dad's company traditions was to give a turkey away for Thanksgiving. After many years,the practice was discontinued. I think it was because it became too expensive and difficult to keep all those turkeys cold.
If a company holiday event is fun, engaging and heartfelt, keep it. Let everyone make their own contributions so it stays light and fresh. If you are looking for a creative way to bring people together, you can always try the Ring Game. Perhaps you want to change the words to:
There are gifts you give away
Your contributions go from one to another
Let them go, let them go,
Keep on giving yourself away
We still play the Ring Game every Thanksgiving and it brings me much joy. When the game is about to end, everyone picks up the tempo and sings faster and faster, louder and louder. Frantically the ring on the string is passed. Just as the ring is touched by every family member's hands so too are our hearts. The intensity of the game heightens because you know it is the last time you will play and be together with everyone this year.