Carnevale di Venezia or the Carnival of Venice is one of the world’s most popular festivals. Feats of acrobats, rhythm of musicians, hilarious antics of clowns, mysterious skills of the magicians, vibrant costumes and mile-long parades are what drove spectators from all over the globe to Venice. Participating in these memorable events and dancing in the masked balls is an experience of a life-time which many of the rich and famous are attending year by year. There are yearly variations of the festival although the format remains same.
Interesting facts about Venice Carnival:
- Best loved festival
- Held in Venice, Italy
- One of the oldest festivities
- An annual event
- Starts 40 days before Easter and ends a day before Ash Wednesday
- Welcomes people from anywhere in the world.
In the year 1162, the Repubblica della Serenissima (ancient name given to Venice) was victorious and defeated Ultrico, patriarch of Aquilela. The celebration was manifested by carousing, dancing and reunions in the San Marco Square of the city. The multicultural population of Venice, magicians and even businessmen joined in the merry making.
Meaning of “carnival” – The term carnevale means “farewell to meat”; symbolizing a goodbye party to steaks and stews given up in the Catholic tradition of fasting during the Lenten season. The “masked portion” of the celebration has an even older connotation. It was attributed to Carrus Navalis during the Roman’s fertility festival honoring Saturn. Men and women in their fancy clothes and wearing masks go around in their horse-drawn carriages shouting and singing obscene songs.
The schedule: At the onset, the festival began the day after Christmas and reached its highest peak on the day before Ash Wednesday which was called Mardi Gras. The same schedule was followed for centuries. In the 17th centuries, revelry included music, wearing of colorful garments & masks and the participation of the middle class. The wearing of masks was intended to hide the discrepancy between social classes.
The strategy: In the 1970, the Venetian government wanted to bring back the history and culture of Venice using this traditional Carnival as its master strategy. Their efforts were successful as today, more than 3 million visitors come to join the festival yearly.
Its popularitt: Since 1980, Carnival in Venice is synonymous with fun. People of all ages and circumstances flock to this Venetian capital to attend private and public masked balls. They occupy the venues where music and dancing are non-stop day and night. Theatrical performances and an array of ancient games are organized for the amusements of both Venetians and visitors.
Happenings during the Carnival:
Lavish entertainment is presented during the occasion. The Commedia dell’ Arte plays, musical performances, parade and masked balls are highlights of the celebration. However, the wearing of mask constitutes its essential ingredient. In the long run, masks became the symbol of the event. During the carnival season, every excess was permitted and the wearing of masks makes one’s action incognito and breaks down all social division. People with the intention of carousing, dancing, partying, playing games and singing converge on open spaces and even spilling out on the streets.
Venetian spends a great part of the year donning his mask. It was allowed on Ascension Day (April or May), then from October 5 to December 26 until Ash Wednesday (February or March). Mask wearers were prohibited from carrying weapons which were strictly enforced by the police.
Maskmakers/Mascherari: They organized their own guilds & have their own statute dated 10 April 1436. Made up mostly of painters and sign painters assistants, they draw, design and painted faces onto a plaster using different shapes, colors and other details. For the service, they occupy special position in the Venetian society.
Materials of masks: Materials used in making the masks are leather or with the original glass technique. Original masks were simple and the designs were both practical and symbolic. Nowadays, most masks are made using gesso & gold leaf and intricately hand-painted with natural feathers and gems as decors.
Types of Venetian masks: Bauta are whole-face mask with no mouth but a stubborn chin and few decorations. Other bautas cover only the forehead, nose and upper check allowing wearer to eat and talk freely. This type of mask is the favorite choice of wearers during the festival. In the previous centuries, the volto meaning “face” was most commonly used as it was the easiest mask to make.
The Masked Ball:
The masked ball is the climax of the season. Fun lovers re-live the golden age of Venice when balls were regularly scheduled and attended by the affluent. With their masks, the lower class mixes freely with aristocrats. Tourists find these masked balls a wonderful opportunity to mix with people from all classes.
Where balls are held: During the season, spectacular balls take place in different venue around the city – top class hotels organize masked balls for their guests or there are designated venues for the purpose.
Attending a masked ball: Most masked balls take place in expensive places so one must have the right amount of cash to join in the fun. Tickets are sold in advanced to avoid overcrowding the venue. So visitors must set aside an extra budget for this. To become part of the crowd you have to wear lavish costume and provide a mask. The last ingredient is to enjoy.
Come to Venice and be a part of the happy crowd. Venice Carnival is synonymous with fun which will provide you memories to last a life time.