Sunday, August 3, 2014

31 Days of Fun: Day 3 -- Hand Clap Games

I was in Kindergarten when my next door neighbor taught me my first hand clap game.  It was Say, Say, O Playmate.  The standard in hand clapping, the lyrics to this game go back to the turn of the century, if not earlier.  Do you remember this:
 (And can you say it without sing-songing?)
"Say, Say, O Playmate..."

Say, say, O Playmate (clap,clap)
Come out and play with me (clap, clap)
And bring your dollies, three, (clap, clap)
Climb up my apple tree; (clap, clap)

Slide down my rain barrel (clap, clap)
Onto my cellar door, (clap, clap)
And we'll be jolly friends, (clap, clap)
Forever more, more...
Shut. the. door!

These hand clap games, like many children's games, have been passed down through oral tradition, mother to daughter, to sister, to friend, to grandaughter, etc. literally over centuries.  It's practically impossible to track down their origins, but it's obvious that a good majority of the classics date to vintage, i.e., before the modern era -- before television, before computers -- back to when children had to find ways to entertain themselves using their imaginations and the resources (ahem) at hand.
Me in Kindygarten

You can tell by the wording of some of the rhymes how old they are. I remember, for instance, being a little kid and puzzling over the words to "Say, Say, O Playmate."    What on earth was a rain barrel, and how exactly could you slide down a door?  I didn't find those things out until I was a grown up and lived in a historic house, but  the weird words were never as important as not embarrassing myself by flubbing up the intricate hand choreography of the game.

Fast forward forty years or so...       .

Here we are, summertime in Nevada, three of our little girls still at home.  I go out to the front porch and -- what is that? -- Drifting over from across the street... I can hear the rhythm of clapping and that same old familiar sing-song tune.  My childhood washes over me like a tidal wave. No way!  The tradition of hand clapping games  is going strong today -- even in the Las Vegas public schools!

Come to find out, our little neighbor girlfriends are experts; they know all the old songs, and some I'd never heard before.  It had been a while since the hand-clapping tradition had hit my radar, though, so I had some catching up to do with our youngest three girls.  I got them up to speed on "Say, Say" and "Miss Mary Mack,"  and they've taken it from there.

And then some.

 I had never actually seen anyone adapt hand clapping to include a third person before the girls figured it out -- but, of course, necessity being the novelty of invention...  Three sisters need to be able to hand clap all at the same time.  Watch their hands fly!

 (Amazing that we started out with Patty Cake when they were wee tots --  and it ramped up to this!)

Miss Molly Mack  (lyrics below)

Say, Say, O Playmate (Lyrics above)

Miss Mary Mack

Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack 
All dressed in black, black, black 
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons 
All down her back, back, back. 

She asked her mother, mother, mother 
For 50 cents, cents, cents 
To see the elephants, elephants, elephants 
Jump over the fence, fence, fence. 

They jumped so high, high, high 
They reached the sky, sky, sky 
And they didn't come back, back, back 
'Til the 4th of July, ly, ly! 

They jumped so low, low, low

They stubbed their toes, toes, toes
And where they went, went, went
Nobody knows, knows, knows...

*  Miss Molly Had a Baby (a.k.a. "Miss Lucy") can be clapped to the same tune, and hand choreography.  The crazy lyrics to that one can be found  here.  

*  And a slew of other silly and fun playground rhymes, good for hand clapping and jumprope, too, can be found here.

*  But, the best site, a website devoted entirely to hand clapping games, with lyrics, videos and tutorials to get you started, you can click here to link:

* Link to a documentary about the history of hand clapping games around the globe, here.

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