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Unmasking Carnevale

Unmasking Carnevale

The history of a mischievous tradition

Children wear masks and carry streamers, streets are lined with confetti and fried sweets are sold everywhere. In Italy, all this means that the time for Carnevale has arrived.

The world Carnevale derives from carnem and levare, which in Latin mean the ‘removal of meat’, a strange-sounding idea referring to the tradition of forgoing meat during the Lenten season. Carnevale is, in fact, the time of feasting before the fasting of Lent. Excessive eating, drinking and merry-making normally occur in this period which culminates on Martedì Grasso, meaning ‘Fat Tuesday’. This is the day when people are used to put masks on and/or masquerade, leaving fantasy free of exploring solutions always new.

The roots of Carnevale date back to ancient times, and are linked with pagan rituals such as Saturnalia (in honor of the god of agriculture and harvest, Saturn) and Bacchanalia (for Bacchus, whom everyone knows as the god of wine). The earliest recorded practice of Carnevale was during the 1200s, reaching its heyday in Venice during the Middle Ages.

The practice of wearing masks derives from the fact that in the past people were participating in the ‘pleasures’ of Carnevale to such an extreme, that they preferred to disguise their identities.


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