Somehow the word ‘Carnival’ was very much familiar to me.
When we used to be in India, the New Year Celebration called ‘Cochin Carnival’, happens at Fort Cochin, Kerala (Southernmost state of India). It is the Portuguese tradition of New Year Celebration started during the Colonial Period (16th century) as Cochin was the headquarters of the Portuguese rule in India.
The Carnival days in Cochin are colorful with various competitions like beach football, bike race, marathon, swimming etc. The main attraction of Cochin Carnival is the burning of ‘Papanji’, a giant statue of an old man in the midnight of December 31. It symbolizes the burning of all the ills and evils to welcome a prosperous New Year.
After reaching Italy, I got to know about the colorful mid-winter festival called ‘Carnival’. Every Square in the streets of our township is then occupied with various musical and dance programs.
When I walk down the streets, the kids used to play by throwing Multi colored small pieces of paper named ‘Coriantoli’. My Italian friends and neighbors surprise me by gifting Special multicolored ‘Carnival Themed biscuits’ they made during these days.
What is Italian Carnival?
Carnival is one of the most colorful and largest winter festivals in Italy. It comes by the month of February, prior to the 40 days Lent of Catholics. We can see people dressed up in different themes and spreading ‘Coriantoli’ (the colorful, small pieces of paper) allwhere in the streets of Italy. The kids prefer to dress up in their favorite cartoon character’s attire, like Frozen, Snow white, Minnie/Mickey Mouse, Masha, Ladybug, Superman, Spiderman, Cowboy, Pirates etc.
As we all know, Catholics deprive themselves of celebrations during the Lent according to the Catholic tradition. So, Carnival is celebrating as the last celebration before the Lent begins. The final Party of Carnival is on the Shrove Tuesday (a day before Ash Wednesday). In fact, in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, the Carnival takes place between the day of Epiphany (January 6th) and Lent.
The term ‘Carnival’ is derived from The Latin, ‘Carnem Levare’ means, ‘take away meat’ or ‘farewell to meat’.
An interesting fact about Carnival that I heard about Carnival Day from my neighbors.is that; In the past, The poor/ low-class people used to wait in front of the rich/ high-class people’s house, on Carnival day evening to collect meat that they throw from their house. The reason behind this is, Carnival day is the day of farewell to meat as the name indicates. The Lent begins from the very next day, that is Ash Wednesday, so they want to remove all the meat/meat products from their house after the carnival dinner. The poor people used to wait in front of Rich’s house till they finish their dinner…
The World Famous Venetian Carnival
Almost all the Italian towns from Milan to Sicily is organizing the festival of Carnival with huge celebrations. Among them, The Carnival in Venice is the most popular one. Venice is the venue of the most popular Carnival Festival in the world. It is the annual festival held in Venice, Italy.
It is believed that Carnival started in the year 1162, following the celebration of the victory of the Venice Republic on St. Marc’s Square, Venice. As we travel through centuries, we can find Carnival Celebrations got ceased many times due to security or political reasons. And from 20th century Italian Government took the initiative to bring back the culture and tradition of Venetian Carnival. Since then, Venice became the tourist attraction during Carnival days.
The Story of Venetian Masks
The main attraction of the Carnival in Venice is the Venetian Masks. We can say the festival of Carnival in Venice is world famous for its elaborate masks. The masks are characterized by their ornate design with bright colors and attractive looks. These masks can cover our face partially or fully; full face masks and eye masks. In the streets of Venice, we can find many shops displaying multi-colored masks with amazing designs.
Venetian Masks have centuries-old stories about its origin. Nowadays these masks are the symbol of carnival celebrations. But in the past, it was used to hide the wearer’s identity and social status. In olden days the difference between the people in the higher class and the lower class was predominant and that is said to be the reason behind wearing masks. In the carnival day’s people from the lower class used to wear elegant dresses as higher class people or political heroes, or film actors. These are not just for entertainment, also to protest against a hierarchical system or to achieve their rights. Moreover that, men used to pretend to be women by wearing clothes and masks to express/propose their love.
Carnival Days in Venice…
In the month of February, Venice becomes the center of tourist attraction in Italy. Almost 3 million visitors coming from different parts of the world to enjoy Colors of Carnival in Venice. Carnival is the festival of colors, music, rhythm, and fun. The streets of Venice will be crowded with tourists and street performers. The entire city of Venice transforms into an even more magical place during the mid-winter Carnival celebrations.
Hundreds of events will be held on in Venice during Carnival Days. The main Venue of Programs will be The St. Marks Square, Venice. The best mask contest, Water Parade of Venetian Rowing, the flight of angels are the main attractions of Carnival in Venice.
I conclude this write up with a beautiful poem of Carnival from my elder daughter…
“Nella piazza in ogni via
C’e’ un allegra compagnia
Che vestita in modo strano
Canta balla e fa baccaano
Siete buffe Ma, Carine…”
Pic Courtesy: Google