Venice Carnival, Italy

venice carnival maskThe Venice Carnival in Venice, Italy is known for its masks and is a magical spectacular a couple of weeks before Lent begins (on Ash Wednesday). This year the carnival begins on the 11th February. Traditionally, meat, eggs and butter were meant to be used up before the fasting of Lent began. The celebration and festivities before Lent gave way to many carnivals around the world, including the Venice Carnival. What makes this carnival memorable though are the costumes and, in particular, masks worn by its patrons.

The religious aspect of fasting at Lent gave rise to people wanting to celebrate and feast before the fasting began. The history of the Venice Carnival can be traced back as far as 1162 when the Republic defeated Ulrico, Patriarch of Aquileia and commemorated this victory by slaughtering a bull and 12 pigs in the Piazza San Marco around Shrove Tuesday. The celebration gradually grew over the years and in 1268 masks were worn for the first time and were used as part of the festivities. The carnival was particularly popular during the eighteenth-century when celebrations and pleasure were part of the lifestyle much to the disapproval of the Church. However, the carnival continued until it was banned during the 1930’s under the dictatorship of Mussolini and it wasn’t revived again until well into the 1970’s when a few Venetians decided to begin the tradition of the carnival again.

The masks worn during the Venice Carnival are unique to this carnival. It is thought that back in the old days, as the identity of wearer’s face was covered with a mask their social status was unknown, thereby denouncing any form of social order. Nowadays, the making of masks is a huge industry in Venice and is worn by Venetians and tourists during the carnival. The Venetian mask has become the worldwide icon for the city.

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