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Carnival of Venice: history and traditions


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Carnival of Venice: history and traditions


The Venice Carnival is one of the brightest events in the world that even children know about. Every year, the procession brings together thousands of people who want to plunge into the special atmosphere of the holiday. For 2 weeks, Venice turns into a fairy tale, descended from the pages of your favorite books.

History of the holiday

The Venetian Carnival has its origins in ancient Rome. Every year the Romans celebrated Saturnalia, a pagan remembrance of the god Saturn, the patron saint of agriculture. The celebration took place in December, the post-harvest time at the winter solstice. One of the translations of the word "carnival" is "ceremonial carriage", which confirms the origin of the festival during the period of pagan idolatry and the revival of inanimate objects.

And in chariots, people drove around the cities figures of idols, thanks to them or begging for fertility, deliverance from diseases, epidemics and cataclysms. The cabbies accompanying the chariots dressed as brightly and cheerfully as possible so that the idols had a good mood.

Why masks?

During the Saturnalia period, as today during the carnival, social statuses and regalia were erased, all estates became equal to each other - ordinary people had fun on a par with their masters. So that no one was embarrassed or afraid of the consequences of the carnival, people wore masks - in this case, the person did not know who was in front of him. Now masks decorate and compete, whose accessory is more beautiful, and in ancient Rome, all masks were equally faceless - again, to smooth out social inequality.

Later, already in Venice, the masks got another meaning: if a woman went on a spree until morning, and a man was carried away by a beautiful young lady, he covered himself with a mask and avoided gossip. The Venetians liked this so much that they began to wear masks outside the carnival. The secular and ecclesiastical authorities did not encourage this and issued a decree prohibiting wearing this accessory outside the carnival.

First carnival

There are 3 main hypotheses about how and when the first Venice Carnival took place:

  • One of the main ones takes us to the beginning of the second millennium, at a time when trade cooperation between Byzantium and Venice was established - this union could be marked by large-scale festivities (1094)
  • The second hypothesis was based on a story that happened a century earlier: the pirates took away the Venetian girls, but the suitors managed to save them and return them home - this is a joyful event and formed the basis of the carnival (998)
  • The third version is the victory of the Venetians over the Patriarch Ulrico (1162).

The celebration was officially legalized in 1296. The Senate of Venice announced that from now on the last day before fasting (in Orthodoxy, by the way, this is Maslenitsa) will be the day of the carnival. From the very first years, the celebration was gaining scope and luxury. People did not recognize each other (even spouses), intrigues, seduction, coquetry, fun until you drop were allowed - there were no prohibitions!

The costumes, masks and events of the carnival reflected the history of Venice: for example, in 1571, after the victory of the Venetians over the Turks, people drew masks on Turkish themes, wore turbans or trousers.

Contemporary Venetian Carnival

The opening ceremony begins in one of the areas of Venice - Cannaregio. At 19:00, boats begin to sail along one of the canals, in which artists, musicians, acrobats and dancers demonstrate their skills. The procession is accompanied by music and lighting effects, while hungry spectators can sample Venetian cuisine.

During the carnival, which lasts 18 days, people participate in:

  • Feast of Mary - a procession in which 12 girls in ancient costumes walk from the church of San Pietro di Castello to St. Mark's Square, where the election of "Mary of the Year" will take place.
  • Feast of all Venetians
  • "Flight of the Angel": a girl who has tried on the image of an angel descends the rope from the bell tower of St. Mark's Square
  • In Mestre (a suburb of Venice), a man dressed as a donkey flies from the window of the town hall
  • Competitions for the best mask and costume
  • Costumed nightly dinners and dances, etc.

Life hacks from experienced

  • It is better to visit the carnival, which is held in the autumn-spring time, in the summer there is a real bathhouse
  • Check out the schedule of events in advance
  • During the festival, housing prices increase significantly. Try to settle in Mestre - a suburb of Venice: you will have to spend more time on the road, but you will be able to save significantly
  • Better to choose an apartment with a kitchen to save money on restaurants too
  • Do not hesitate to take pictures with passers-by in fancy costumes - they only welcome this
  • Walk as much as possible and try to attend as many events as possible!
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