In this article, I am going to talk about Carnival, the ancient festival that occurs before the season of Lent. Reading the following text, you will learn more about the origin of its name and how it has changed during the centuries.
Have you ever heard the saying “At Carnival every joke is worth”?
This sentence represents perfectly the spirit with which this period has always been lived: it is a time of joy, joke, and laughter, during which the impossible becomes possible, and every rule and hierarchy fails.
But let’s go in order and begin to clarify the name. What does Carnival mean? According to the most accepted hypothesis, this name comes from the Latin Carnem Levare, which literally means remove the meat, and which makes us immediately think of the long Lenten fast.
The evolution of the Carnival
Carnival is an ancient festival that has been handed down over the centuries and has come down to us. But how have its celebrations changed over time?
In the past, the Carnival was a pagan holiday, and it was considered the feast of the earth’s fertility, which awakens after the long winter sleep.
In the Middle Ages, the Carnival was characterized by exaggerated fun, in which every rule was distorted, and the social classes, traditionally well separated, could mix with each other. Therefore, those differences so much highlighted on official occasions, at Carnival time, could feel free to celebrate together.
Even the Renaissance had its Carnival, with big parties, just like in the Middle Ages, but more elegant and refined ones.
In this time, however, there is something more, namely, those elements that dominate today’s Carnival parades: the allegorical floats called trionfi (triumphs), organized by the Medici family.
Starting from the XVI century, the Comedy of Art (Commedia dell’Arte) spread in Italy and with it the masks that still characterize the Italian Carnival today. Each of these masks represents a character with specific peculiarities: Brighella represents the swindler, Pantalone the stingy, Pulcinella instead the chatterbox…
Carnival in Italy is a very important festival. Many events are organized throughout the peninsula to celebrate it. Event organizers work for entire months to prepare allegorical floats that change from year to year. They combine tradition with current affairs, often staging today’s political and social situation in an ironic and satirical way.
If you are in Italy at Carnival these are some of the most important events you can participate in:
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