Carnival of Venice, Italy

he Carnival in Venice is said to have originated from an important victory of the "Repubblica della Serenissima" (Ancient name of Venice), in the war against Ulrico, Patriarch of Aquileia, in the year 1162. To celebrate this victory, dances and reunions started to take place in SAN MARCO SQUARE. The term "carnevale" comes from the Latin for "farewell to meat" and suggests a good-bye party for the steaks and stews that Catholics traditionally gave up during the weeks of fasting before Easter. The masquerade aspect of Carnival is

even older: the Romans celebrated winter with a fertility festival where masks were worn by citizens and slaves alike. Another hypothesis suggests that the word comes from 'Carrus Navalis', which was in times past a Roman festival in honour of Saturn. This was celebrated with horse drawn carriages that used to carry men and women in fancy dresses and masks and singing obscene songs. Today's concept of Carnival, as celebrated in certain countries, could have possibly originated or at least associated with this hypothesis.

When the carnival first begun it was celebrated from December 26 and reached its climax the day before Ash Wednesday, also known as "Mardi Gras". Carnival was the stage of lavish masked balls, Commedia dell'Arte plays, musical celebrations and costumed parades that included the different segments of society. Eventualy the mask became the symbol of the Carnival.

Thus Carnival of Venice is considered one of the world’s most famous festivals and fills the whole city with musicians, acrobats, clowns,

magicians, puppeteers, beautiful masks, elaborate costumes, and parades. People come from around the world to participate in masked balls and general festivities in the ancient Venetian tradition, and to enjoy theatrical and dance performances, exhibitions and concerts along the canals, squares and the magnificent palaces of the city. Carnival traditions are the same, but every year the theme is different.

During the period of Carnival it seems that every excess was permitted and the fact that everyone wore masks seemed to abolish all social division. All the open spaces (campi) and the streets were thronged with people intent on partying, carousing, singing, dancing and playing games. The most common costume (the baùtta) was composed of a black silk hood, a lace cape, a voluminous cloak (the tabarro), and a three-cornered hat and a white mask that completely covered the wearer's face. This allowed revelers to go around the city incognito. It would be exciting to visit the Casini, where you could play a game of chance.

Since 1980 the celebration of Carnival in Venice has gained popularity. People come from the world over to attend private and public masked balls and masked revelers of all ages invade the campi where music and dancing continues nearly day and night. Theatrical performances and an array of ancient games are organized for the amusement of Venetians and visitors alike.

The types of masks and costumes worn today are based on character types drawn from Italian folklore, history, and society.

Venice Carnival masks fall into several categories:

The masks depict characters ranging from. Most of these creatures have been popularized and crystallized in the Commedia dell’ Arte.

Commedia dell'Arte masks are based on traditional characters like satyrs, demons and lawyers to sailors, bakers, butchers Harlequin and Pierrot.

Fantasy masks are figments of the maskmaker's imagination, although they may be inspired by historical designs.

Traditional Venetian masks such as the white volto half-mask with nose cover and its variant, the "plague doctor's" mask with its phallic beak. (According to tradition, the beak was intended to protect the wearer from being infected by the plague.)