There are so many exciting events, check the www.carnivalofvenice.com website for details. The word carnival comes from the Latin for “Farewell, meat!” Devout Catholics are obliged to fast during lent. Since all meat, butter and eggs had to consumed prior to that day, it became an excuse for a party that replicated historical pagan festivities.
Historically in Rome, Saturnalia and Lupercalia festivals celebrated lewd behavior that was beyond the realm of propriety and social order. Popes Clement IX, Pope Clement XI and Pope Benedict XIII were advocates of Carnival celebrations. Venice Carnival festivities declined through to the 1930s, when Mussolini banned it.
In 1162, when The Republic of Venice defeated Ulrico, the Patriarch of Aquileia, the tradition of slaughtering a bull and 12 pigs in the Piazza San Marco around Shrove Tuesday was initiated to commemorate the victory.
Carnival Masks made the Venetian Carnival noteworthy. Traditionally, people were allowed to wear masks between the festival of Santo Stefano (St. Stephen’s Day) on December 26 and the start of the carnival season and also at midnight on Shrove Tuesday. Maskmakers (mascherari) enjoyed a special position in society. They had their own laws and their own guild.
Some of the traditional masks depict Commedia dell’Arte characters. Others were more sinister.
Authentic Venetian Masks are rather expensive because they are so labor intensive. They are sold all year round in Venice. Check out the Carta Alta website for an extensive array of masks at www.cartaalta.com
I like these masks:
Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Italy Travel Guides @ www.vino-con-vista.com