The origin and modern features of Venice Carnival
February is probably one of the most difficult months of the year when all the books have been read, films watched, tea drunk; and the rug does not heat any more. That is why, many people, like Pasternak, start feeling blue. And others, especially those who are not familiar with Russian poetry, start dancing. Since 1162 Venetians have been wearing masks and going out in the streets to dance, walk on ropes and look at various anomalies. All this began on the day when the victory over the patriarch of Aquileia was celebrated in St. Mark’s Square.
And would you like to spend at least one day without a society pressure and expectations? To do what is not a characteristic of yours but what you have been dreaming of for a long time? What is at odds with your social and material status, or just upbringing but seems so enjoyable? The Italians really wanted it. So they invented a carnival. At the time of the carnival every citizen of Venice or a traveler became what he wanted. The mask made it possible to cover any differences created by society and get indulged in all the forbidden fun.
All the European carnivals used to have and still have one goal, i.e. to get saturated with food and entertainment before the Great Lent. Hence, the name “carnival” has its origin from the Italian “carne levare” – the removal of meat, that is, the refusal of meat during the fasting. It is a period when they refuse from many other pleasures except gastronomic ones. So in February, before the start of the Lent, we have to dance, meet girls, eat, drink, compete and receive prizes for the best carnival costume.
Carnivals are considered to resemble Maslenitsa ( A Pancake Week) by the time and celebration nature. In a modern, more atheistic society, the carnival is secular. Therefore, you are free to buy costumes and masks and get ready for a few weeks fun. The Carnival of Venice 2019 will take place from February 16 to March 5 and will start with a boats parade along the Grand Canal. Its destination is the Cannaregio district where the guests will be able to try traditional Venetian cuisine.
During the three weeks of the festival you can visit at least 30 events: parades, concerts, street performances, a dinner and a Venetian ball, and contests for the best carnival mask. Also you will see not one or two “Cazanovas”, as wearing masks and indulging in various pleasures was one of Casanova’s favorite activities.
In Venice, they used to wear masks not only during the carnival but also in everyday life. The face was hidden when they went out dating, or to the theaters. Masks were used by criminals as well. Therefore, in the XVIIIth century it was forbidden to wear masks outside the carnival.
Venetian masks are of two types: theatrical ones, and those not associated with theater. The theater masks are known to many people: it’s Harlequin, Pierrot, Colombino, Pedrolina. The carnival masks that are not associated with theater are also known even to those who have never been to Venice. The white mask of Baut distorting your voice; a black coat and a triangular hat are the three elements Casanova used to put on for his dates. The Moretta mask or “a mute maid” is fixed on the face due to the pin which is clamped in the teeth, depriving the woman from any opportunity to speak. It generally looks like sexism but for the sake of a game it can probably be tried.
Doctors treating the Venetians from the plague, used to wear black raincoats and cover their faces with a longnose mask with aroma oils inside. They protected them from catching the disease (according to the doctors’ opinion of that time, of course). Nowadays anyone can buy such a costume and become Medico della Peste, that is, “the death doctor”.
WHERE TO BUY A CARNIVAL COSTUME AND A MASK
Carnival costumes and masks can certainly be purchased online on ebay and amazon, but you can also buy or rent them in Venice. One of the most famous stores offers a fancy dress or mask on its website. One mask will cost you about 50 euros.
WHAT TO DO AFTER THE CARNIVAL
After you get enough of entertainment and Venetian food, we advises you to visit “Gallerie dell’Accademia” Museum. As well as in any other Italian museum you will find pictures of the best Renaissance artists there. If you have time and desire to explore, you should visit other Italian cities. We advise Florence where you can see David, a sculpture by Michelangelo, the eternal city of Rome, and Milan for shopping. The easiest way to travel around Italy is by train – the trip will take you two or three hours and will cost 50-100 euros.
We wish you the best of a holiday!