Carnival is synonymous of distortion of the established order, of jokes and satire, of unbridled fun and closing of the year cycle. it’s celebrated from immemorial time in all the countries with a Christian majority so much that its beginning is calculated according to the dates of Easter in order to end with the beginning of Lent (forty days before Easter).
The Carnival begins immediately after the Epiphany and goes on until the day of the Ashes, even if the most important days for the festivities are the “fat” Thursday (the official date of the beginning of the Carnival) and the “Mardi Gras” (the end of the event). This year, the “fat” Thursday falls on February 28th. March 3, 2019 is Carnival Sunday, the one in which, as tradition, parades and events take place. Mardi Gras falls on March 5, 2019 and marks the beginning of Lent that starts with Ash Wednesday (March 6, 2019). It is called “fat” just because it would be the last day when it is possible to eat meat and gorging before going on to the austere Lenten diet.
In Italy, Carnival is celebrated almost in every town and city, with traditional masks and typical dishes, even if the national culture has brought some more than others in the limelight. Let’s see them in detail.
The Carnival of Venice is one of the most incredible and elegant Carnivals in the world and has its roots in the era of Serenissima Republic. The Carnival opens with the historic Venetian Festival on the water where the Rio di Cannaregio turns into a real water stage with a show that every year enchants thousands of spectators, where floating structures transfer on the water the Carnival theme. The Festa delle Marie and the election of the most beautiful mask precedes one of the most awaited moments: the angel’s flight in which the mask who won the previous Carnival flies over the crowds of Piazza San Marco and officially open the festivities.
It started in 1873 at the behest of a group of young bourgeois but despite its young age has managed to conquer over time a huge media coverage.
The parade floats are the strong part of the Carnival and the five days of the “Corsi Mascherati” (so called the great parades of allegorical floats), moving in a ring circuit on the Lungomare di Viareggio and attracting millions of tourists every year. The papier-mâché was invented precisely in Viareggio, still involving the work of sculptors, blacksmiths, and carpenters who put on stage more and more scenographic and complex sculptures – real mobile theaters – depicting political and entertainment figures up to 20 meters high and 12 wide. Every year a jury chooses the most beautiful wagon for each category to which it belongs.
It’s the oldest Carnival in Italy (its origin dates back to 1347) only second to the Venetian one. The most representative elements of the festival are the allegorical floats made of papier-mâché and foam, prepared well in advance in the months before the celebrations: these are up to 16 meters high with references to the characters of comics, celebrities and politicians. Among the most popular classic masks that crowd the Carnival we remember the characteristic Pupo, caricature of a popular Marche character.
One of the most famous traditions of Carnival of Fano is the launch, from the allegorical floats, of tons of sweets and candies that symbolize the festive spirit of the event, so much so that the motto is “Beautiful to see, sweet to taste”.
It is an ancient celebration officially recognized as “Italian event of international importance“. The main moment of the Carnival is the battle of oranges to which every year thousands of tourists assist incredulous for the energetic strength of the battle that recalls, according to medieval legend, the rebellion of the people – the oranges on foot – against feudal tyranny – personified by shooters on barded carriages with medieval armor.
The weapon of the battle was not always the oranges but in the past beans were also used. Moreover the exact reason for the choice of this fruit is not known, it is certain that every year more than 500 tons of oranges are imported from Calabria.