Christmas is not yet forgotten and it is time to celebrate again!
The month of February, here in Italy, means Carnevale (Carnival) and Carnival in Italy is a time for partying and having fun. It is mostly a feast for kids, but a lot of adults love it too. I used to hate it when I was a kid and I still do not like it that much, but I love the fact that we have typical sweets and foods that you can find only at this time of year. I love food, you know, I can’t help it.
Carnevale takes place before Lent (Quaresima in Italian), which is a six-week period before Easter Sunday, and usually falls in February or early March. Since Lent traditionally is a period of prayer, fasting and repentance to get ready for Easter, Carnevale is the time for partying and having fun. It generally lasts for a couple of weeks and ends with a final celebration the night before Ash Wednesday – the day that marks the beginning of Lent.
Carnevale is mostly celebrated with street parties and parades, but there are masquerade balls and private parties as well. There are parties for kids at school and at least one big parade in each Italian town – a bit like Mardi Gras, to give you an example. Confetti is thrown all around and tricks are really common, with people playing pranks at one another. As a matter of fact, we also have a saying that goes A Carnevale ogni scherzo vale (anything goes at Carnival).
However, some Carnivals are bigger than others.
The two most famous Carnivals in Italy are the ones of Venice and of Viareggio, which are quite different from each other. The Carnival of Viareggio, held in the city in Tuscany, is characterized by a huge parade of floats and masks. Such masks are usually papier-mâché, with people devoting months to their making, and in most cases they depict caricatures of politicians, showmen, and other famous people. It is quite a mass celebration while the one in Venice is more elegant and a bit snobbish.
The Carnival of Venice is famous for its elaborate and historical masks, which can be found everywhere around Venice during Carnival – making a great subject for pictures. Venice is also famous for its private masquerade parties, held in noble palaces around the city, and for the Volo dell’Angelo (the flight of the angel), which officially opens the Carnival celebrations in Venice.
There’s another very important Carnival celebration, here in Italy. It’s the Carnival of Ivrea, which takes place in Piedmont, a peculiar feast characterized by the Battle of the Oranges, a super violent battle fought with fruits between some people on foot and others on carts. Such battle is a commemoration of the city defiance against a tyrant, where oranges represent the stones being thrown in Medieval times and people on carts represent the tyrant’s soldiers. I have never been there, but when I see images on TV I always find it quite scary!
But let’s come to the most important topic: food!
This time of the year brings some amazing sweets, which are called chiacchiere – deep fried pastries. They can be found all over Italy, but have a thousand different names: bugie, crostoli, frappe, lasagne, sfrappe, risole, cenci, strufoli, gasse, galani and many others. I’d say that they have a different name in almost every Italian province. But they all are pretty amazing!
Do you celebrate Carnival where you live? Let me know!
If you are interested in learning more about Italian culture and lifestyle, I’d suggest you jump on my digital Vespa and join Be Italian For A Month, your 30-day virtual journey to Italy.
You will also learn some Italian words, you’ll receive some typical Italian recipes – ready to be cooked and enjoyed, you’ll get to tour around Italy, and learn about Italian traditions, proverbs, stereotypes, you name it. Plus, some cute surprises along the way!