More cultural significance than one might first think

It’s not hard to make a Canadian happy. Give us a 24-pack of homebrews, a box of Timbits and a hockey game, preferably one that involves the Leafs and the Canucks, and find us in maple-syrupy heaven. The only possible way to make this classic combination better would be to add a round of our national sport, flip cup. This traditional drinking game says much about Canadian culture on a whole, a culture which is centred around collective gains and eternal optimism.

To completely comprehend why flip cup reveals so much about our culture it is vital to understand the rules and procedures of the game. The fundamentals: two teams face off using a combination of speedy chugging and tactful cup flipping to finish all their beer first. The teams, comprised of an even number of competitors, form two lines on opposite sides of a table, conventionally a pool table. The first person in each rival line starts the game by performing a complex set of cheers and then swallowing their beer as quickly as possible. The cup, which must be a plastic red Solo, is then gingerly placed right side up and the player uses a flicking motion to lift the cup into the air and land it face down on the table. This performance is repeated by each member of the team and the team that does this quickest wins.

It is not a complicated game, the rules are few and simple. The point of the game is obviously to win but just as important is the element of supporting your own team. Canadians live in one of the most ethnically, linguistically and culturally diverse communities in the world. With such a multiplicity of influences, the country could easily have become a hotbed of political turmoil and civil unrest. Yet there seems to be a sort of synchronicity driving all Canadians, a shared need to propel our nation forward using our exceptionalities constructively and for common triumphs. In a way this is like a good game of flip cup. Not all the team members will be able to contribute the same skills to the collective success of the game. Some can chug like they have no gag reflex while others are one flip wonders, and some do not excel at either of these but can shout loud and obnoxiously enough to disconcert the other team.

The comparison between flip cup and Canadian society might appear a little outlandish, especially for those who have never seen the game or been immersed in our maple-loving society. However, a further link between the two is the optimism that each entity entails. Losing a game of flip cup is like not making the playoffs, it was fun while it lasted and now you can shout at the other teams. Plus, there is always next year. Canadians seem endearingly positive about every situation. The thermometer just dropped below zero in the middle of September? Great, lets start icing the local outdoor rink. Just had to wait hours in the hospital for stitches? Perfect opportunity to knit a super warm toque in the waiting room.

Right before Spring Break a handful of Canadians organized a flip cup event at The Vic to raise money to send a kid to camp through the Tim Hortons charity. The event demonstrated some essential traits of Canadian society that were further amplified by the presence of our national drinking game. There was, of course, a common goal to help others receive what many of us there had the chance to experience in our youth. There was also the mutual sense of excitement and cheer generated by being around other Canadians, as well as our native foods and beer. Ultimately the event managed to raise enough money to send two kids to camp whilst generating an even stronger sense of Canadianism abroad.


Alexandra Rancourt