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Carnival In Italy

The religious festival of Carnival or Carnivale as it is known in Italian, is taken rather seriously on the predominantly Catholic peninsula. This occasion of joy and celebration occurs some 40 days before Easter and is seen as a final oppurtunity to cut loose, celebrate and indulge oneself before Lent begins. The 40 days leading up to Easter in which Christians prepare for the crucifixion, death and ressurection of Christ by making personal sacrifices themselves. The event is celebrated in many cities, the most well know of which is Venice.

Carnival, or ‘Carnevale’ in Italian, is a celebration which occurs some 40 days before Easter. It is a final opportunity to eat well and enjoy oneself before the restrictions of Lent take hold, and is celebrated with enthusiasm in many Italian cities, especially Venice. The tradition of getting dressed up at Carnival is one that goes back many year to a time in which the class system played a major role in society. The aim of wearing the disguises and masks in places like Venice for example were so that no one knew who you were and so that people were able to mix freely as identiy and who one was, or more to the point who one wasn’t didn’t play a significant role. The Venetian carnival masks are known as ‘maschere’ and are often handmade and hand painted, they make great souvenirs or gifts.

The main point of Carnival is fun. Children throw confetti in the streets, people play pranks on eachother and tell jokes, colourful parades make their way through the streets, balls take place and the streets are packed out with all sorts of forms of entertatinment, and music, complimented by the great variety of food and drink on offer.
Carnevale is a time when the pressures of everyday life are forgotten in a joyous rush of celebration, where the rules that shape the rest of the year do not necessarily apply. Children throw confetti in the streets, and pranks and jokes are tolerated and expected. Parades, balls and parties of all kinds are packed out, with entertainment and music complementing the food and drink on offer. The Gaudy gondola parades and the masked parades in St. Mark’s Square are the unmissable events of the carnival season. The Cannaregion distric also hosts a special carnival event for children which means that noone is left out of the celebrations.

Venice is not the only Italian city to go wild at this time of year; Viareggio on the Tuscan coast puts on a parade of papiermache floats. Away from the mainland, Oristano on Sardinia add an equestrian theme to the proceedings, with its La Sartigilia festival featuring a horse race and jousting tournament. At Ivrea in Piedmont, festival goers throw oranges at each other in celebration.
The saying ‘A Carnevale Ogni Scherzo Vale’, or ‘anything goes at Carnival’ perhaps best sums up the feeling of liberation and celebration that surrounds this festival. Visitors to Italy at this time of year should be ; they might not want to come home.


picture: Alaskan Dude/ flickr.com

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