Carnival or ‘Carnevale’ is among the largest celebrations in Italy. Also celebrated in many other parts of Europe and Latin America, this festival is complete with masquerade parties and Venetian masks! In Venice and in all other parts of the world, the Carnival takes plays on the days leading up to Lent.
During the 40 days of Lent, parties, eating meat, sugar and fats are off limits. As a consequence of which the Italians would try to get rid of all their food and drink before lent. As a matter of fact, the word Carnevale comes from the Latin words carne meaning meat and vale meaning farewell. Though this tradition it believed to have started in the late 1100’s the extravagance of it all was introduced in the 16h century.
Venetian Carnival Masks – A History
With a tradition that dates back centuries, Venetian masks feature in Italian culture beyond that celebration of Carnival. Way back in 1268, a law was passed to put a ban on wearing masks and throwing perfumed eggs!
By this time, these exquisite masks were already an integral part of the Carnival celebrations. The
law was reversed in the 18th century, where Venetians were permitted to wear masks for 6 months every year.
Carnival Over the Centuries
In spite of a long and colorful history, the festivities started to go downhill during the 18th century. With the Austrian conquest of Venice, wearing Venetian Carnival masks and celebrating was out of question. Also Mussolini banned the celebrations altogether during his regime in the 1930s.
In the late 1970s a group of Venetian artisans joined together to restart the festival. Since then, over 3 million people choose to visit Venice alone for the festivals each year.
What to Expect at the Carnival
The celebrations commence on a Friday afternoon with La Festa delle Marie. This is a masked procession through the city that takes place right before the official opening of the Carnival on Saturday. The Piazza San Marco in Venice is the place to be during this time.
If you were to visit a carnival celebration, you can enjoy a number of events such as the lavish masquerade balls, candle-lit parade of boats, concerts and street performances. You may be required to get an invite or pay a steep ticket price to get into a masquerade ball.
If you missed the carnival celebrations this year, you can still purchase authentic masks from anywhere. Use them as ornamental wall hanging, as a creative Halloween costume or as an accessory to your exquisite gowns.