“Life is a Theater. It’s time to get masked!” is the motto of the most popular and beloved carnival in Italy, which dates back for more than 700 years. Carnival officially starts in mid-January and ends 40 days before Easter, on the day of Lent. A carnival is a medieval pagan holiday which has strong roots in the winter rituals, back when masks and laughter were believed to repel the evil spirits of winter.
The History of the Carnival:
Rumor has it that the first Venice Carnival was held after the victory of the “Repubblica della Serenissima” against the Patriarch of Aquileia in 1162. People were so happy that they started to dance in the streets. Although the Carnival has known a decrease in popularity around the 18th century, it has been legally approved during the renaissance period. Today the Carnival has reclaimed its former glory and it is home to over three million participants each year.
How the Carnival is Celebrated:
The first week of festivities is marked by adults wearing masks, and children disguising themselves at school in order to receive candy, carnevale pastries, tortelli and chiacchiere. The final day, Fat Tuesday, is the highlight of the festival, which culminates in a huge bonfire. Every town has an unusual way of celebrating Carnevale and local traditions usually give a special flavor to every event. The entire country becomes festive and happy for ten days, until Fat Tuesday.
The Carnival Masks:
The main attraction of the carnevale are the beautiful masks and costumes worn. The Venetian Masks can be manufactured from painted porcelain, glass or leather and have a symbolic meaning. They are hand-made and hand-painted using natural high quality feathers and decorative jewelry, and have become a signature feature of the Venetian Festival. There are two major types of masks, the Bauta and the Columbina. The Bauta covers the whole face, it has a square jaw line which enables the bearer to speak and is designed to ensure anonymity. The Columbina is a half-mask with beautiful decorations and feathers which cover the face with the help of a stick to which it is attached. There are also masks like The Plague Doctor, which is a bizarre mask with a long beak, the Moretta which is a strapless oval mask with holes at the regions of the eyes and the Volto which is similar to the Bauta.
During the Carnival of Venice, the main concern is having fun, dancing and releasing your inhibitions in an explosive atmosphere. For many tourists it is a once in a life time experience, and for the world it has certainly become one of the most interesting cultural events in Europe. Carnevale is certainly a time for adventure, make friends and explore your wild nature!