Sunday, February 17, 2013

Carnevale- Rich in Culture and History

Carnevale is what Americans refer to as Mardi Gras. Celebrated across Italy, the biggest celebration is held in Venice every year. Approx 3 million people flock to Venice to don fancy masks, elaborate costumes and dance the night away at the ball. I wasn't fortunate to make the trip to Venice in time to experience Carnevale myself, but it was nice to know that MWR/ITT offered a trip, which means if I don't want to plan one, I can easily sign up for a hassle free experience.

What is Carnevale all about?

Venice used to called the Repubblica della Serenissima, and the Carnival originated from a victory against Patriarch of Aquileia. People of the town met in San Marco Square and danced to honor the victory. Carnevale became an official festival during the Renaissance but diminished during the 18th Century. In 1979, the Italian government brought back the festival to commemorate the history and culture of Venice.

When does Carnevale start?

It used to be that Carnevale began in October, but now it begins on the Day of Epiphany and lasts approx ten days before Lent. Masks are allowed to be worn starting on the Festival of Santo Stefano (St. Stefano's Day) on December 26th.

When does Carnevale end?

Fat Tuesday is the last day of the celebration. Forty Days before Easter.

What's with the masks?

The masks play a big role in Carnevale. They hide people's identities, therefore allowing no differentiation between commoners and noblemen.

Fun fact!

The Tuesday before Lent starts is called Shrove Tuesday. Shrove is past tense for "shrive" which means to obtain absolution for one's sins by way of Confession and doing penance. Therefore, Christians are to be "shriven" before the start of Lent.

Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Day in America, but why?

It is traditionally to eat pancakes before the start of Lent to help use up rich foods such as eggs, sugar, and milk before the fasting season of Lent. Fasting doesn't mean starving ones self, but to eat plainer food- no meat, dairy or eggs.

What food is eaten during Carnevale?

Italians indulge in rich, fatty foods, thus the term for Fat Tuesday. Popular dishes include: gnocchi (potato-pasta dumplings), tortelli (meat filled pasta), even Sanguinaccio di Carnievale.

Sanguinaccio di Carnevale has been banned from public sale, but the locals still make it. Why is it banned and what is it you ask? Well... if you really want to know.. it is a bitter chocolate pudding. Not bad right? I forgot to mention that it is flavored with fresh pigs blood. It was banned in 1992 for health- law concerns.

Lasagna is also eaten on Fat Tuesday, again as a way to use up the richer and fatty foods from the home before Lent. So in honor of the tradition, I went to the NEX and bought a Stoffers Lasagna!

Something for the Kids!

Italians don't celebrate Halloween like Americans do. They celebrate All Saint's Eve on November 1, but the tradition of wearing Halloween costumes is slowly becoming popular. The last day of Carnevale, however, the children dress up like Spiderman, Princesses, and anything imaginable. I went to the local shopping mall the weekend before and about fell on my butt from all of the confetti on the ground (didn't help I was wearing heals!) from the parade put on for the children.

Being here for 3 years, I have all the time in the world to go to Venice. but having missed one Carnevale already I have only TWO MORE CHANCES to attend again with ease. Time to start planning my trip for next year!

Here are some interesting websites that I ran across while researching for this blog!

Official Sites:
Types of Masks:
General Information:

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