cardsagainstthemennonitesBy now, you have probably been to four or five Christmas gatherings. Maybe you’ve eaten your share of pfeffernuss and are readying yourself for portzelchy. Maybe you’ve already alienated the other Rook players in your family and have strained the goodwill of the Dutch Blitzers.

You have almost certainly exhausted all of your polite small talk material.

And it’s not even New Years.

That means that unless something happens quickly, you are likely to be forced into discussions about theology, politics, and/or what ethical living really means.

To avoid that fate, I present to you a brand new party game.

It isn’t true that all Mennonites love party games. I grew up in a game-loving family and we often played games when guests visited. I know that some other Mennonite families were less fond of games.

I pity those families; because of game-playing, all of my family members are (usually) civil to each other and none of us have a clue as to each other’s politics or theology.

Which is how it should be.

Some of the more worldly game-playing Mennonites out there buy and play board games, which is ok unless they are games like Risk which promotes war, or Candyland, which promotes consumerism and bad eating habits.

We had a number of acceptable board games in my household but the best kind of games were the ones played with little scraps of paper. These included charades, the perennial favorite, and also “picture charades” – a parlour game precursor to Pictionary, and what we called “The Dictionary Game” – Balderdash without the boxes and cards.

Like those pencil and paper games, today’s game has the benefit of frugality.

It’s a riff on a game that became all the rage in the non-Mennonite world a couple of years ago — Cards Against Humanity (which is itself a riff on an earlier game). It is a game that self-identifies as “a party game for horrible people.” This game never took off among Mennonites because: 1.  it takes us a couple of years to catch up with popular culture trends; 2. It’s horrible.

I haven’t played Cards Against Humanity myself (and don’t know anyone who will admit to playing it) but I have looked through the cards online and thoroughly disapprove. No, honestly. They are terrible – designed to offend and to leave all the players with a disconcerting sense of their own horribleness. I look through those cards and find myself wondering how much blame this game should take for the current state of US political culture. People need to stop thinking it’s cool to be horrible and rude.

But that’s enough of me moralizing. It’s almost New Year’s Eve and we all need distraction far more than we need to reflect upon our own horribleness this year.

And so, instead of making a year-end quiz this year that would make us all look back upon the good and the bad, I have made us all a game.

Cards Against the Mennonites follows the same basic pattern as Cards Against Humanity but replaces the horrible with Mennonite-appropriate terminology. Instead of laughing at lewd jokes, we laugh at jokes about Discernment and Dirk Willems. Mine isn’t the first Christian variation on the game but it’s the first Mennonite one, largely – I expect – incomprehensible to Non-Mennonites. I apologize in advance to any Non-Mennonites attending Mennonite New Year’s Eve parties this year.

Admittedly, in removing the rudeness, I may have eliminated a lot of the humour of the original game. I know you won’t disapprove. We Mennonites have never shied away from sacrificing humour for the sake of appropriateness.

Even so, you may get a few laughs playing this game with your Mennonite guests. My family gave the game an impromptu test run after I gifted a set to my niece for Christmas and I was surprised at how amusing the players found it. My mother even asked for her own set to play with her Church friends, suggesting that the game is truly lacking in any subversiveness and that we are a people simply desperate for laughter.

And so, for your next gathering of friends and family, I present to you a mildly amusing game to help you wile away a few hours that could have been spent doing something productive.  Which – if you have a terrible case of the Protestant Work Ethic – might be enough to make you feel like a horrible person. Which makes the game more like Cards Against Humanity than I thought.

Here’s the game.

The Last Schputt

Cards Against the Mennonites takes a lot of preparation time (making and cutting the cards, chiefly). I suggest that you start drinking early. Also, I expect that the game will get funnier with the consumption of alcohol.

Today’s cocktail is based on the classic, The Last Word. You need a couple of specialty liqueurs for this cocktail but, as you’ll have a crowd over for a rousing party game, you may not have difficulty getting through the little bottles of elixir.

The word schputt is, I believe, one of very few words that is in common parlance among both Plautdeutsch-speaking and Pennsylvania Dutch-speaking Menlast-schputtnonites. It means to tease, make fun, mock, and/or engage in general merriment. This cocktail does not really mark the end of all schputting.

The recipe starts with the basics of The Last Word but reduces the lime and adds a bit of rhubarb.

  • 1 oz gin
  • 1 oz maraschino liqueur
  • 1 oz chartreuse liqueur
  • 1/2 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • several dashes of rhubarb bitters

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker half full of ice. Shake well until chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a twist of lime peel.