It is Carnaval. A celebration that happens in most Catholic countries exactly 40 days before Easter is supposed to take place. It is considered to be the last chance to enjoy yourself and indulge, just before repenting until Easter – a period called Lent when you’re supposed to behave, eat less… simply be a humble good Christian.
In Portugal, where I grew up, this is a big thing. It usually consists of parades in the streets, people dressing up in different costumes – from kids in school to grown-ups – it’s supposed to be fun, sometimes satyrical, with lots of great food and drink. I personally never was a big fan of Carnaval. I celebrated as a kid and I always wanted to go as a Queen or something like that, so you must think that I actually grew up quite entitled. It is not the case, I simply wanted to be a Queen because I loved the dresses.
There is a part of me that is passionate about the Regency ages – big dresses, with tight corsets, lots of lace and layers of heavy fabric, sequins and jewelled collars… high hairdos and little tiaras. This is why Carnaval for me is the Carnaval of Venice. I love everything about it – the costumes are from a different time, luxurious, opulent, and those masks? Literal works of art that you wear, hiding completely your identity. You can literally be someone else and live in a different time in Venice’s Carnaval. The dark side to it – it seems extremely elitist – I mean these maks and these dresses…are not cheap. And looking back at its history, Carnival in Venice was definitely an excuse to forget about the basic rules of civilisation – and Venetians loved it way too much. The anonymity conferred by the masks allowed anyone to get away with anything. At some point in the 18th century, Carnival would actually begin on the first Sunday of October, taking over about half a year, to the point the Church felt forced to forbid any carnivalesque activities during holy days. Imagine – it is Christmas but also… Carnival?!
Nowadays, the Carnaval in Venice lasts for 13 days (instead of the 3 days we have in Portugal for instance, so I still consider this to be a very long time). I missed it, of course, but I could see how much the city loves these festivities – not only the beautiful shops of handmade masks were there for me to admire the real craft that goes behind them, but also I kept seeing confetti on the floor, as children would buy it from street vendors and throw it in the air. I left Venice with a feeling that Carnival was happening all year round, even if I didn’t see the opulent parades with the beautiful costumes and masks hiding the identity of whoever was lucky enough to be a part of such celebration.
Maybe one day I will – have you?
P.S. Check my posts about Venice here 🙂