Carnevale di Venezia – Venetian Carnival

Carnevale di Venezia

Many of you may already know that Venice is not only known as one of the most unique and romantic cities in Italy, but also for its Carnevale.

The Carnevale (carnival) is a holiday that is celebrated in countries of Christian tradition, especially Catholic. The word Carnevale comes from the Latin “carnem levare” (remove the meat), as it originally indicated the banquet that was held immediately before the period of Lent, during which, according to tradition, Catholics must abstain from eating meat for forty days as they prepare for the fasting before Easter.

The official date that opens the festivity of Carnevale is the 3rd Sunday before the First Sunday of Quaresima (Lent). Therefore this year, the period of Carnevale started on February 5th. The last day of Carnevale is the so-called Martedi Grasso (Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras). This year, Martedi Grasso  falls on Tuesday February 21, the day before Mercoledi delle Ceneri (Ash Wednesday), which is precisely the 40th day before Pasqua (Easter). When you count the 40 days you don ‘t have to count the Sundays which are not considered days of fasting.

Although a Christian tradition, the peculiarity of the celebration of the Carnevale originates in more ancient times. Carnevale is the Christian adaptation of ancient Pagan customs such as the Bacchanalia, in honor of Bacchus, and the Saturnalia in honor of Saturn. These festivities took place along the streets of the city and included the use of maschere (masks). During the celebrations the servile barriers were set aside; social slaves became masters and vice versa and the Re della festa (king of the party), elected by the people, organized games in public places.

In the late Middle Ages the disguise became widespread in the Carnevale of the cities. The masks allowed the exchange of roles and allowed  making fun of hierarchical figures. In the Rinascimento (Renaissance) the festivities during Carnevale were also introduced in the European courts and took on more sophisticated forms, linked also to the theater, dance and music.

The Ballo in maschera (masquerade ball), introduced by Pope Paul II, gained popularity in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries through the influence of the Commedia dell’Arte (Comedy of craft). With the actors of the Commedia dell’Arte, at the end of ‘500, some of the traditional maschere (characters) of the Carnevale took shape: PulcinellaArlecchino, Colombina, Pantalone, Dottore Balanzone, Brighella.

These have become the very symbols of Carnevale.

The tradition of Carnevale has been preserved so that each Italian region has its own originality. Although the Venetian Carnival and the Viareggio Carnival are well known, other deserve to be mentioned, such as the Carnevale di Ivrea (Piemonte), Putignano (Puglia), and Cento (Emilia Romagna)

The Carnevale di Venezia has ancient origins. The Senate of the Serenissima Republic officially confirmed the existence of Carnevale in 1296, with an edict declaring a national holiday the day before Lent. Since then, the festivity has accompanied the life of the city. During the Venetian Republic the festivities lasted nearly six weeks, from December 26th until Ash Wednesday.

In the eighteenth century, Venice officially earned the reputation of  “Citta` del Carnevale” (City of the Carnival). Its festivals, events, masks, theaters, and public gaming house, make the city a tourist attraction throughout Europe, welcoming thousands of visitors.

The Carnevale saw a time of stasis after the fall of the Republic of Venice, because of the temporary occupation by Austria and France.

The tradition was, however, preserved in the islands, Burano and Murano, where they continued to celebrate.

The Carnevale di Venezia was officially reinstated in 1979 and since then, every year for two weeks, among the calle (narrow streets) of this wonderful city, all in masks, it is a celebration of a world of dance, theater, concerts and exclusive galas.

This year the theme of the Carnevale di Venezia is “La vita e` teatro. Tutti in maschera” (Life is theater. All in mask).

The celebrations include,  performing arts, music, masquerede parades, and the traditional volo dell’angelo (flying angel).

It is not surprising that Carnevale is also associated with some traditional culinary delicacies. From the North to the South of Italy every region has its own specialty. They all have different names, Cicerchiata (Abruzzo), Castagnole (Lazio), Fritole veneziane (Veneto), Cenci (Toscana), Friciò (Piemonte), Bugie (Liguria), Cattas (Sardegna), Chiacchiere (Campania) but, they all have one thing in common: they are deep fried! Oh. . .I forgot, they all are buonissime!!!

Now, be patient and come back to my blog on Monday morning. You will be rewarded with the recipe of my Chiacchiere napoletane, the way my mom used to make them.  In the meantime I hope you will enjoy some of my pictures of Venice.

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